More details emerge about evacuated Scranton building

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A building in downtown Scranton has some serious issues. So much so, that it was evacuated and the sidewalk in front of it is also blocked off.

WBRE 28/WYOU 22 told you about the issue last night. Wednesday night, Eyewitness News found out new information about the problem that starts underground.

This impacts several jobs because the businesses on the first floor are closed until further notice. And there’s no word on when families in the upstairs apartments can return to their homes.

The trouble started Tuesday, when an inspector with Scranton Code Enforcement was checking on a reported sewage smell at 205-207 N. Washington Ave.

“When they went down to inspect it, they discovered that there was a break in the sewer line in the basement. While he was on site, he noticed some other structural issues with the building,” Office of Community Development Director Eileen Cipriani said.

Inspectors discovered the support structure for the vault underneath the sidewalk in front of the building had failed.

“If we had a large amount of people gathering in front of that building, there’s the potential of that whole floor system collapsing, meaning the whole sidewalk goes down about 15-20 feet into the ground,” Code Enforcement Deputy Director John Eastman said.

The city engineer declared the three-story building and the sidewalk in front unsafe for human occupancy or use. Eight families and two businesses had to vacate the property. John McDonald owns the Subway and Electric City Pizza on the first floor, where he’s rented space for 19 years.

“I mean we’re closed. As business was just picking up, we can’t be open. And I’m guessing I would miss the Italian Festival,” McDonald said.

Eastman says the steel beams rusted away over time. It was built during the turn of the century, which explains the vault under the sidewalk. They were used for storage at the time and there are still many vaults under Scranton’s sidewalks.

One on South Main Avenue collapsed in 2016. Cipriani says the city will help the owners of the building make necessary repairs.

“We want to see them back in business and getting their customers in there, but our role here is to make sure everyone is safe,” Cipriani said.

McDonald worries how long it will take.

“I did see the damage that was down in the basement, and it’s going to be a while. I have a concern that I’m not going to get any workers back,” McDonald said.

Code Enforcement identified the owners as Andrew Stonbely and Dustin Lavine, who are based in Allentown. Our attempts to contact them have been unsuccessful.

United Neighborhood Centers is providing housing for the families who were displaced. The office of Community Development is looking at ways to notify businesses that may have sidewalk vaults.

They can contact the licensing inspection permit department if they suspect any issues.

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