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Updated: Stabilization to begin
City orders Read Brothers closed until buildings stabilized

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Updated, 3:20 p.m. Aug. 16, 2017:

The city of Charleston has hired NBM Construction Co. Inc. to begin work stabilizing the Read Brothers buildings. City Council voted Tuesday to approve a $41,700 contract with the company.

The city said in a news release that the Charleston Building Inspections Division informed Read Brothers owner Thomas Read of the upcoming stabilization after he had not submitted plans or permit applications to address the problem within the five days the city allotted. Construction is expected to begin soon.

Charleston plans to place a lien on the properties for the cost of the construction to ensure that Read Brothers reimburses the city, the release said.

“Throughout our history, the city of Charleston has relied on property owners to maintain the safety of their own buildings,” city spokesman Jack O’Toole said. “Occasionally, however, when public safety is potentially at significant risk, the city has been forced to act quickly to secure a structure, as is the case here.”

Original report follows:

The city of Charleston has ordered that Read Brothers on King Street be closed until the business’s buildings can be stabilized, based on a new report from an independent structural engineer.

In his report, structural engineer Craig Bennett, president of Bennett Preservation Engineering P.C., wrote that the buildings pose “a significant threat to public safety from failure of the beam supporting the masonry facade on King Street.”

Read Brothers occupies 593, 591 and 589 1/2 King St. In his report, Bennett wrote that all of the buildings have suffered water damage, and the main building at 593 King St. had a leaking roof, fallen plaster and deteriorating steel supports; a parapet support beam and exterior bricks were damaged; and bricks were in danger of falling on pedestrians.

Bennett recommended that the sidewalk in front of 591 and 589 1/2 King St. remain closed until the bricks and support beams could be secured, that the sidewalk in front of 593 King St. be covered to protect from falling debris; and that the Read Brothers buildings be monitored for structural movement and further loosening of the facade.

“We are concerned that elements of the facade will fall with construction vibration and traffic vibration, and perhaps even with wind-induced movement of the building,” Bennett wrote. “Monitoring will not necessarily prevent falling of elements or even prevent a significant structural failure but has the potential to give warning of such.”

The city has been monitoring the Read Brothers buildings since April 12 because of concerns about some of the brickwork. The city hired Bennett to assess the properties and provide an initial report on April 17, and the city has been working with the buildings’ owner to begin repairs.

“As always, public safety is job one for the city in these situations,” said city spokesman Jack O’Toole. “We are grateful to Mr. Bennett for his expert and timely recommendations and look forward to seeing them implemented without delay.”

Read Brothers is at least the third business to close this year because of structural problems. In early April, Nick’s on King was forced to vacate its 288 King Street building as a result of structural issues, and Lagunitas Brewing Co. closed in early July to repair the 161 East Bay St. building.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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