More than four months after a Burlington County demolition company won the contract to tear down the decrepit Parkade Building in downtown Camden, engineers and utility workers are finally beginning to gut the building.
But because of recently discovered engineering challenges, the eyesore won't be out of sight any time soon.
"We planned with plans which we had available," said City Engineer Uzo Aniarakwe. Workers quickly discovered that those 1950s plans weren't up to date.
Workers now are trying to account for all water, sewer, and gas lines going into the building, while being careful not to affect the High-Speed Line operation that runs parallel to the three-acre Parkade site.
Roosevelt Plaza, a park to be built by the city, will replace the building, constructed in the mid-1950s to help redevelop downtown.
"No one wants to see an abandoned building in front of City Hall," said city spokesman Robert Corrales.
The Parkade demolition has been a years-long saga.
The Camden Redevelopment Agency (CRA) voted to knock down the building in 2003 after it was found to harbor the bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease. There were legal fights with the building's owner, Nedmec Associates, and Camden County; a $1.6 million asbestos-removal process; and, in 2007, relocation of tenants.
Winzinger Inc. of Hainesport won the work with a $1.43 million demolition bid in November, and a contract was drafted with the CRA.
During a city economic-development speech Feb. 24, Mayor Dana L. Redd mentioned the demolition as scheduled for completion in March. Fences went up around the building, between Market and Federal Streets at Fifth Street, in the last week of February, and engineers started going in to survey the building's interior.
"This building is particularly unique because it's had office space, retail, and parking garage," said James Harveson, director of economic development for the CRA. "We've found all kinds of abnormalities."
In addition to mislabeled or changed utility lines, a lot of groundwater had to be pumped out of the building.
"When the building was abandoned," Harveson said, "pumping ceased to exist."
Construction workers using small excavators on the site Wednesday said they were "cutting off services."
The brown, five-story brick building is boarded up around the ground floor, and windows on other floors are either open or broken. There isn't much debris outside the building, except for three black lamp posts that have been knocked down - red Christmas ribbons still tied to them.
Once all utility lines are identified and disconnected and the interior is gutted, the city's code-enforcement department will issue a demolition permit.
Razing will be done in stages, starting on Federal, according to city officials. The deadline for completion is 120 days after the permit is issued.