UPDATE: Chilliwack's Irwin Block demolished Thursday
As heavy demolition began Thursday morning of the Irwin Block at Five Corners, city staff and demolition crews were surprised at the poor structural integrity of the brick facade.
As an excavator tore through the walls of the more than 100-year-old structure, concrete bricks tumbled to the cordoned off area of Young Road like pieces of Lego knocked over by a toddler.
Eric Dyck, project manager with the city, said they were surprised to see just how structurally unstable the building is, adding that if an earthquake would have levelled the building.
City council approved a plan in February to "deconstruct" the Irwin Block and the two city-owned Yale Road buildings to the east as part of a long-term plan to revitalize the area.
The plan for the entire block came out of a consultant's report and recommendations from the Downtown Task Force Report to "acquire and assemble land in a key block of properties within the Downtown Core and demolish buildings and remediate property as necessary to become 'development ready.'”
The city purchased the Irwin Block for $600,000 on Dec. 27, 2012.
The bill to demolish the buildings is $141,400, considerably lower than the estimated $800,000, deputy CAO Chris Crosman told city council in February it would cost to get the Irwin Block back to occupancy level.
That latter price tag would likely be even higher now that staff have seen just how shoddy the building was constructed. Dyck pointed to steel beams over windows and brickwork that were not reinforced.
Critics have suggested the heritage values of the Irwin Block meant it should have been saved, something rendered unlikely to be possible given the state of the building discovered Thursday.
A few hours after crews began, the entire building was down with just the debris to clean up. The short-term plans for the site include a small park with walking paths.