Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Watch out for falling architecture!

Last week as John was dropping me off at work, we noticed that the adjacent street was closed off: cops, people staring up at the sky, what was up? Did a peregrine falcon chick fall off a ledge onto the sidewalk again? Turns out it was something newsworthy.

Here's the deal: there are 2 turn-of-the-century "skyscrapers" in downtown Binghamton: my own Security Mutual building and the adjacent Press Building. My building appears to be fully occupied- my own firm has been a tenant for over 100 years, and now takes up 5 floors (Security Mutual takes up the other 4 or so). The Press Building on the other hand, while it is certainly more beautiful and ornate, has had a less consistent occupancy. This is leading me to the Big News from last week . . .

Turns out that the street was closed because a CHUNK OF THE ROOFLINE FELL OFF! The Press Building is about 10 stories/150 feet tall- you do not want chunks of debris falling from the top! No one was hurt, probably because it happened at night, but apparently debris fell on a car parked on the street and did some serious damage.

Anyway, if you look at the roofline from my office (or look at the photo posted in the intro), which more at a level elevation to it, you can see that the whole structure of the building is really sagging up there; this wasn't just ornamental gargoyles dropping off or something like that. I don't know how you can fix something as fundamental as the roofline!

The building is absolutely gorgeous and was up for sale for about $1.5 million last year. It caught my eye because I couldn't help but think how crazy it was that someone could own a historic, iconic gorgeous national landmark like the Press Building for about the same price as the average 3 bedroom condo in Playa Vista. Now, however, I can readily see the downside of owning such a structure, and why they go for so cheap: UPKEEP! What a liability a building like that can become.

The poor guy who owns it- who is about my age- had to go on television and give interviews and defend that his building wasn't going to fall on anyone! Makes me wonder if the structure will turn out not to be economically viable and if they might have to tear it down because it costs more to keep up than it's worth. Now that would be tragic for Binghamton.

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