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Owner Of Partially Collapsed Lemp Brewery Says Storm Damage Played A Role

The Lemp Brewery partially collapsed on Sunday, August 23, 2020.
Jorge Calvo
The Lemp Brewery partially collapsed on Sunday.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. Aug. 24 with comments from Lemp Brewery’s owner and the St. Louis Building Commissioner.

About a third of one building in the Lemp Brewery complex collapsed around 9 a.m. Sunday in the Marine Villa neighborhood in south St. Louis.

Shashi Palamand, who has owned the historic set of 29 buildings for two decades, said storms in April and July likely contributed to the collapse of building No. 20. He added that last month, lightning struck several buildings in the complex, damaging eight or nine buildings.

Palamand said the building that fell was the last in need of repairs. He added that a couple of weeks ago, he noticed bricks chipping off the building and had since been working with an engineer and masonry company to analyze the damage.

“As far as our experts even knew, this was a cosmetic issue, but no one could see what was inside, but it appeared from the outside that it was just the outer layer that was coming off, and it was fixable.”

Palamand said he wanted the company, Western Waterproofing, to make the necessary repairs a week and a half ago, but he was told that due to constraints of the pandemic it didn’t have the staffing to handle the job immediately. In the meantime, Palamand said the company had placed caution tape and cones around the building and noted that more bricks may fall.

On Sunday, Palamand hired Ahren’s Contracting to begin clearing debris from the area and conducting demolition in order to stabilize the building. Once that’s done, Palamand said he will work with engineers to inspect the building and come up with a plan to save it.

“My hope is always to preserve these buildings,” he said, adding that he spent more than $1 million about 10 years ago to put on a new roof and strengthen the walls of the building.

He said he wasn’t aware of any code issues with the building before the collapse.

St. Louis Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said the city condemned the building in 2003. That means it did not have the permits required for activity in the building or modifications.

Oswald said building owners can incur a $25 penalty fee per violation, but he added it doesn’t make sense to send a violation letter for less than $200 on a collapsed historic building.

“I mean, it’s kind of what can you do after the fact kind of thing. You’re not going to get blood out of a turnip, so it’s a pretty difficult situation,” he said. “But at this point, our main and primary objective is public safety.”

Oswald said he plans to focus on ensuring the same thing doesn’t happen with any of Palamand’s other nearly 30 buildings. Oswald said repairs are expensive on historic buildings like the Lemp Brewery, but he’s glad to see the company working with reputable contractors to restore the building now.

“What happens is you get water behind these courses of bricks and you have freeze and thaw cycles and extreme heat that causes bricks to pop and just can have that domino effect unfortunately,” he said.

“I guess it’s fortunate in the sense that you didn’t have a group of construction workers on scaffolds right there because it could have obviously killed people. So all things considered I guess we’re pretty lucky,” he said.

Original story from Aug. 24, updated at 4 p.m. with comments from St. Louis BWorks.

The Lemp Brewery partially collapsed Sunday morning.

Pictures and video of the historic brewery in the Marine Villa neighborhood in south St. Louis surfaced on social media around 9:30 a.m. The St. Louis Fire Department and Police Department were on the scene.

The St. Louis Fire Department’s Twitter account confirmed that the building “sustained a substantial collapse,” and that no one was injured. The cause of the collapse is still not known.

Patrick Van Der Tuin is the executive director of St. Louis BWorks, a local nonprofit that refurbishes bikes. Roughly 700 bikes were stored in the building that collapsed, which constitutes 80% of the nonprofit’s inventory. However, Van Der Tuin said his biggest concern right now is safety.

“The building is fairly open right now and we want to make sure that we don’t have neighborhood kids or other people trying to get through the rubble to any remaining things that might be accessible inside the building,” Van Der Tuin said. “The building is in a very dangerous state right now. They’re trying to bring in some wrecking crews to bring down some walls that are pretty unstable.”

Jorge Calvo rents an art studio space at the Lemp Brewery. He said he’d been there that morning picking up stuff for his daughter’s birthday party.

“I was just honestly breathing a sigh of relief,” Calvo said. “I would have driven right past that building. And I know the chances are very slim, but that building could have potentially fallen right on my truck as I was driving by.”

Lemp Brewery Building Collapse

Calvo said neighbors had pointed out that there was already caution tape where that portion of the building collapsed. Similar concerns about the building’s stability were brought to Van Der Tuin’s attention as well.

“We’d had some problems with loose bricks here and there in the past. And, for the most part [Shashi Palamand, the owner of the Lemp Brewery] had been responsive,” Van Der Tuin said. He had a fair amount of work done to it nine or ten years ago when we initially rented the space. I talked to a couple of neighbors who said that in the last few weeks that there had been more and more bricks coming off of the side of the building onto Chouteau Avenue and that they had actually blockaded the sidewalk on that side of the building.”

St. Louis Public Radio reached out to Palamand for a comment. He was unable to respond. The brewery was built in the 1860s.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.
Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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