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Several ‘older’ downtown buildings suffer earthquake damage

By Garna Mejia, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 19, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Several buildings sustained damages in downtown Salt Lake City. KSL spoke with officials and business owners about their next steps.

Damaged buildings included the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake and its neighboring building – currently undergoing a remodel – Caffe Molise, Cucina Toscana, and the Rio Grande Depot.

Each was considered to be an “older” building, and more susceptible to damage caused by an earthquake.

Most of the damage was to the building exteriors and roof portions, except for the Rio Grande Depot, which sustained damages on the interior mezzanine and office areas.

“In the main display, we had multiple failures of the upper façade and a lot of cracks in the plaster,” said Thomas Peterson, with the Utah State Division of Facilities Construction and Management.

After an initial assessment, Peterson said damages to the Rio Grande were primarily cosmetic. They did not think the building suffered structural damage.

Peterson said the building suffered additional damages following the 4.6-magnitude aftershock Wednesday afternoon.

“When the 4.6 came through around 1:15 p.m., we noticed there was significantly more plaster in the mezzanine areas,” he said.

The building will remain closed, pending further evaluations.

In the meantime, authorities worked to restore power to the basement area, where state archives are stored in temperature controlled rooms.

“We have about seven generators that we’re operating right now, to make sure that those freezers stay functioning and that those archives are protected,” said Peterson.

Officials said the building has not been retrofitted for earthquakes, but the legislature approved a seismic analysis during the last session.

“This is a good trial run for a larger event and how we’ll respond,” said George Deneris, Utah State Risk Management Engineer. “I’m very happy that we had a small one like this, because I think we’ve gotten complacent – both our agencies and the public in general – because an earthquake is a danger in this area.”

Damages were also evident in other buildings and restaurants in the downtown area – most evident on the rooftops of older building, where bricks spilled onto the sidewalks.

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At the Cucina Toscana, shattered glass fell from windows, where it appeared vases fell over during the earthquake. Outside the front of the restaurant, an area was taped off after bricks and a portion of a second floor patio railing collapsed.

The restaurant had a flyer posted on the doors, stating it was already closed from March 16 to April 16 due to coronavirus concerns. The restaurant appeared to be empty during and after the earthquake.

At Caffe Molise, significant damages were observed on the north end of the roof, where crew members worked to pick up bricks that had fallen onto the sidewalk.

Restaurant owner Fred Moesinger explained there were also significant damages on the third floor patio, where a portion of the brick wall also collapsed, breaking several windows.

Fred Moesinger, owner of BTG Wine Bar and Caffe Molise in Salt Lake City, picks up bricks among debris that fell from his building after a 5.7 magnitude earthquake centered in Magna hit early on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, KSL)

Moesinger said the interior damages appeared to be minor. A crew had been working on a renovation project in the basement during the earthquake, but no one was injured.

The building underwent a retrofit in the 1990s, which helped protect the structure from further damages. Moesinger said he hoped to once again offer take-out options in the next few days.

The Rescue Mission of Salt Lake City reported that there was some damage observed on the interior walls of the building.

Executive director and senior pastor Chris Croswhite said they evacuated the building, pending an inspection.

In the meantime, patrons were offered the option to stay at the mission’s Ogden facility, or receive support from nearby organizations.

Croswhite also said the building was experiencing a power outage.

Anyone interested in donating to the mission can reach rescuesaltlake.org. The mission is also in need of toilet paper and paper towels, asking those who are able to donate their extra supplies.

A building adjacent to the rescue mission also suffered damages to the exterior roof section.

Jim Martineau of Makers Lines 2.0 Construction said 10 construction workers were at the site during the earthquake. Martineau said everyone was able to evacuate the building safely and no injuries were reported.

Authorities asked the public to avoid the downtown area, if possible, while inspectors assessed damages and in light of ongoing aftershocks.

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