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Building On Historic Liberty Square Collapses

Courtesy City of Liberty, Missouri

This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.

A building in downtown Liberty, Missouri, partially collapsed Tuesday morning, and officials were concerned that other buildings might be at risk. 

Firefighters and police crews were called to the scene at 1 N. Water Street in the historic square in Liberty, shortly after 9 a.m.  The Bedinger Building, which once housed an Ethan Allen furniture store, had been vacant for about four years, but was undergoing renovations.  

The Kansas City Fire Department's building collapse team swept through the building with their cadaver dogs — and discovered no bodies. Early reports suggested that one person might have entered the building and officials had not been able to contact them.

"They've determined at this point that they don't think that there's anyone inside," says Claire Jackson, public relations specialist with the city of Liberty, Missouri, "as far as they could tell with the dogs, and as much of the building that they could get into safely and clear."

According to Jackson, the structural engineers are considering next steps for the building and the adjacent buildings to make sure they're structurally sound. 

Liberty fire marshal Dustin Paddack said at a morning update that the city was taking safety precautions, with a collapse zone set up around the building. 

"When you have old buildings like this, they kind of shore up against each other. And when one goes, you have the potential for other ones going. We have that issue to worry about," he said. 

The City of Liberty posted on its Facebook page: "Due to a building collapse at the corner of Kansas and Water streets, please avoid the Downtown area."

Lasers will help experts monitor stability and decide if going back into the building will be necessary, Paddack said. 

"If that starts moving either way, then that's how we know that a collapse could be on its way," he said. 

Paddack said he was not sure what caused the collapse of the building, which was built roughly in the late 1800s.

In October, former IT company owner Shane Griffin released renderings of plans for mixed use redevelopment for the building. Griffin told the Liberty Tribune that businesses could include "a restaurant, a coffee shop, a jewelry store, a cross-fit gym, a loft or two, work spaces, and perhaps a frozen custard/yogurt place." He added, "I don't see a mini-Westport, but I do want to see more shops." 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter,@lauraspencer.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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