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Wall collapses during repair

| Saturday, July 22, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh building inspectors said the collapse of a brick wall on Lawrenceville's main thoroughfare happened as a contractor worked to repair a gap in the brick.

William Pontier, owner of the Starr Discount convenience store at 4115 Butler St. in Lawrenceville, was not required to have a building permit for the repair work being performed Thursday from a scaffold on his building. The building has no code violations, Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection Chief Ron Graziano said.

Pontier had hired a private contractor to fix a 2- to 3-inch gap that had formed in the brick facade of the building.

"Evidently, there was a bow in the wall," Graziano said.

A neighboring business owner recently pointed out the problem to Pontier, Graziano said.

Workers were removing loose bricks and, shortly after they left for the day, the wall collapsed, littering the street and sidewalk with bricks.

No one was hurt and no other buildings were damaged, Graziano said. He didn't know what caused the collapse. Graziano did not plan to fine or cite Pontier.

The city has condemned Pontier's three-story building, which contains a convenience store on the first floor, and four vacant apartment units on the floors above.

Pontier must hire a structural engineer to inspect the building and issue a report on what must be done to secure the rest of the brick wall within five days.

Two adjacent buildings were evacuated when the wall collapsed. One of those buildings, where a hair salon operates, must remain closed at least until the engineer's report is ready. No restrictions were placed on the second building.

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