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Building in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood collapses: ‘We’re very lucky that nobody was injured or killed’

A tow truck operator clears bricks from the roof of a car that sustained damage from a building collapse in Pigtown on Jan. 17, 2021.
A tow truck operator clears bricks from the roof of a car that sustained damage from a building collapse in Pigtown on Jan. 17, 2021. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

A three-story brick building in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood, with roots dating back to the early 20th century, collapsed Sunday, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman said.

Officers received a call about the incident on the 1000 block of W. Cross St. at about 8:30 a.m. and spent about an hour at the scene. No one was injured and the adjacent rowhouse was not damaged, the spokesman said, though at least two cars parked next door appeared to have been hit with debris as the rubble crashed down.

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There was no immediate cause for the collapse, though the department spokesman cited the house’s old age as a factor. Photos of the structure before its fall show it had once served as a carryout restaurant called Camden’s Carry Out, and had been boarded up.

Property records show that the home’s primary structure was built in 1900.

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This is not the first aged Baltimore house to crumble without warning. Other incidents have been deadly.

Tow truck operators prepare to remove a car crushed by debris from the morning collapse of a building at 1000 W. Cross St. The building, at the corner of Wyeth St., was unoccupied at the time, and no one was hurt, according to a city spokesman at the scene.
Tow truck operators prepare to remove a car crushed by debris from the morning collapse of a building at 1000 W. Cross St. The building, at the corner of Wyeth St., was unoccupied at the time, and no one was hurt, according to a city spokesman at the scene. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Thousands of vacant and old properties are at risk of collapse in the city, but razing them has proved difficult for housing officials. Some buildings’ owners have died or are not easily reachable, complicating decisions about condemnation and demolition, and delaying work. And with Baltimore’s population continually falling, housing inventory has outpaced demand.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Phylicia Porter, who represents Pigtown in Baltimore’s 10th District, said city crews are working to get excavators and contractors out to clear the area by Sunday night.

The property will be made safe and fenced off to prevent pedestrian access, a news release from Mayor Brandon Scott’s office said Sunday afternoon. Scott’s staff said the city’s Housing Department and the Red Cross are engaged, and a building inspector is assessing the safety of nearby buildings.

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When completed, the site will be filled, seeded and strawed.

J. Diante Edwards was brushing his teeth around 8:30 a.m. when all of a sudden he felt his house shake. The Citizens of Pigtown vice president peered out his window and watched the dust settled, discovering the vacant home he’s been complaining about for more than a year had finally toppled.

“I was very frustrated by that because through the 311 system, the city knew about the issues with the property,” Edwards said. “We’re very lucky that nobody was injured or killed and that it’s just a little bit of property damage.”

After spotting the rear wall sagging toward the street, Edwards submitted a 311 request last month to have the building inspected. He learned Sunday that other neighborhood residents had done the same. But after a building inspector evaluated the home, no further action was taken, Edwards said.

Edwards said he’s even tried to reach out to the owners of the property but has never received a response. He believes both the property owners and city are at fault for the collapse and believes that the space should be turned into a green area for everyone to enjoy. Edwards also urged the city to be more vigilant about locating and taking care of vacant homes.

“The owners of the property took no action to stabilize the property and the city gave no follow-up,” Edwards said. “The city itself should be accountable for its actions or rather its lack of action.”

Baltimore Sun reporter McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.

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