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Crews working to stabilize Duluth's Board of Trade Building, remove storm debris

A crane sits on the First Street near the storm-damaged Board of Trade Building on Thursday. First Street is scheduled to be closed to through traffic from Third to Fourth avenues west until Wednesday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 2
A worker reaches up to help guide a large trash container onto the Board of Trade Building on Thursday morning. The building was damaged when its 50-foot chimney crashed through the seventh-floor roof during last week’s storms. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 2

Crews will continue working until next week to stabilize the Board of Trade Building in downtown Duluth so debris from last week's storm can be fully removed and tenants can get back to business.

It may be a couple months before some tenants are able to return to the building at the corner of First Street and Third Avenue West.

Brick and mortar from the building's chimney fell through the seventh-floor roof on the south side of the building during the July 21 windstorm. A portion of First Street between Third and Fourth avenues west has been blocked off to make room a crane, constructed Tuesday night, to aid in debris removal.

Sandy Hoff, president of F.I. Salter Real Estate Services, which manages the building, said crews must redistribute the building's weight to stabilize it for further debris removal and safety assessment. The building's weight distribution is usually 75 pounds per square foot, he said.

"We currently have 300 pounds per square foot resting up there," Hoff said.

Hoff said the debris has not fallen through any of the floors below, and crews from Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. are carefully stabilizing the building to ensure that does not happen. Hoff said that work will take place through next week.

"At that point, they can more aggressively start removing all the bricks," Hoff said. "It's very important that it's a methodical, strategic process to lighten the load and stabilize simultaneously."

Mike Dosan Jr., senior project manager at Kraus-Anderson, said crews are stabilizing the building by placing floor supports on each floor. Dosan said workers are setting a series of structural posts and beams against existing building structures to redistribute the weight.

"Sort of like when you're stacking a deck of cards," Dosan said.

Hoff said he does not have a definitive timeline for when tenants might get back in the building, but said no one will return to it until it is safe for occupancy.

He said the decision about when to let tenants back in is up to the city building inspectors. Tenants on the north side of the building might be allowed to return in a few weeks, he said, while the wait for tenants on the south side could be up to two months.

"It's really a tale of two worlds," Hoff said.

Wendy Rannenberg, supervisor of the city of Duluth's Construction Services division, said city officials will sit down with building owners, the structural engineer and the general contractor next week to discuss moving forward. She said the structural engineer will assess the building after it is stabilized and give recommendations for next steps.

"There's a lot of things that factor into whether a building can have occupancy or not," she said.

Those factors include not just structural safety, Rannenberg said, but also safety measures such as building exits and sprinkler systems.

Dosan said that as Kraus-Anderson workers continue to stabilize the building, his No. 1 concern is the safety of the people inside the building.

"We're all working as one cohesive team," Dosan said of Kraus-Anderson, city officials and F.I. Salter. "I think we've got a pretty good handle on keeping everybody safe."