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Home / Commercial Construction / Milwaukee Boston Store building wall collapses (UPDATE)

Milwaukee Boston Store building wall collapses (UPDATE)

By Marie Rohde

A sign tells shoppers the Boston Store at 331 W. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Milwaukee is closed Monday. A wall collapsed inside the building Monday, affecting some offices but not the apartments above the store. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

A downtown Milwaukee Boston Store was closed Monday after an interior wall collapsed, according to a spokesman for the store owner.

“It apparently happened overnight,” said Brian Manthey, a spokesman for Wispark LLC, the parent company for store owner Bostco LLC. “It affected the second and third floors.”

The store did not open Monday morning, he said.

An employee discovered the problem at about 6:45 a.m., according to Manthey.

“It wasn’t like the whole wall collapsed,” Manthey said. “Some bricks had fallen.”

The affected structure was described as structural wall, but Manthey said he did not know if it was load-bearing.

“We’re still looking at the cause and how to best make the repairs,” Manthey said.

Todd Weiler, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Neighborhood Services, said building inspectors on Monday were going floor to floor inspecting for damage.

The problem occurred in a wall where two buildings meet — one six stories and the other nine stories, Weiler said. The buildings were both constructed in the 1800s.

Art Dahlberg, the commissioner of Neighborhood Services, said the wall was originally an exterior wall.

A few years ago, a portion of the brick was removed to open up the store floor space and some of the brick was left as pillars. In August, the owners began seeing cracking on the third floor and did a complete inspection of the building, Dahlberg said. The pillars were reinforced with steel beams and monitoring continued, he said.

Barry McNulty, another spokesman for Wispark, said the city has ordered residents of 24 of the 74 apartments in the building to relocate to a hotel until at least Wednesday.

Some office workers were also sent home and the store will also be closed until Wednesday while temporary repairs are made.

Bostco, a subsidiary of Wispark LLC that owns the building at 331 W. Wisconsin Ave., is involved in a lawsuit related to alleged damage caused by the draining of the groundwater beneath the building by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s deep tunnel system, which runs under the store.

Bostco sued MMSD, alleging that groundwater leaked into the tunnel, a storage facility for waste and rain during major storms. That, according to Bostco, caused the wood pilings of the building to rot and caused structural damage.

A jury found that the tunnel construction and operation were 70 percent responsible for the structural damage to the building. The jury assessed past damage at $3 million and future damage at $6 million.

The finding that the owners were 30 percent responsible meant that Bostco would get $6.3 million. However, Judge Jeffrey Kremers reduced the award to $100,000.

Later, another judge, Jean DiMotto, ruled that the tunnel was responsible for the damage and that it must be lined with a foot of concrete.

All of the decisions were appealed. The 1st District Court of Appeals seated in Milwaukee is slated to hear oral arguments on March 22.

Dahlberg said he did not see the problem as connected to the deep tunnel work.

“I see it as a brick wall that failed,” he said.

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