The westbound lane of a block of Second Street through downtown Seymour remains closed a month after a fire broke out in a clothes dryer in an upstairs residence of a building.
Part of an adjacent building’s brick facade collapsed onto the sidewalk and street that day.
All of the bricks have since been cleaned up, but due to the damage, there is still a threat more bricks could fall.
Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said the road and alley behind the buildings will remain closed, at the advice of structural engineers, until the buildings are secured.
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“All of our structural engineers have told us to keep the road closed until that facade is securely fastened back to the roof,” Luedeman said. “So that road will probably stay closed for a while, until that can happen.”
Luedeman said he was told by engineers who walked through the buildings that the remainder of the brick facade could fall because there’s not a lot holding it in place.
“They said if the bricks fell, they could damage the glass windows on buildings across the street,” Luedeman said.
He also said the engineers thought the blocked-off area was too narrow and recommended even more of the street be closed.
It’s not known how long the process of securing the buildings and cleaning up the damage will take, but Seymour Main Street hopes the organization’s involvement will get things rolling.
Tom Goecker, president of the Seymour Main Street board of directors, said the goal is to save the building that housed Hair Force Beauty Academy and Second Street Styles at 110 W. Second St.
To do that, Main Street is working to purchase the building from owner Alan Killey.
“If we are able to acquire it, we want to bring it back to life,” Goecker said. “Our plans would be to stabilize the building, put a new roof on it and then put it on the market.”
Goecker said Seymour Main Street has offered assistance in some way, along with the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, to all of the businesses impacted by the fire.
Main Street is funded through its membership drive, community donations, the annual Dancing with the Seymour Stars fundraiser and tax increment financing revenue from the Seymour Redevelopment Commission. The organization does not receive local residential property taxes.
“The city has really designated us to lead the way on revitalizing downtown,” Goecker said. “So that’s why we are involved.”
The last thing Main Street wants is a damaged building to sit empty or a historic building to be torn down if it can be helped, he said.
“We don’t need another open storefront or another pocket park,” he said.
Nothing is set in stone, but Goecker said he is optimistic and believes all parties want the best for the downtown.
“The first floor is in good shape, and the second floor is intact,” Goecker said of Killey’s building. “The roof structure will have to be completely replaced, but there is a beautiful tin ceiling on the first floor.”
Goecker said he was surprised the damage wasn’t worse.
“There’s a lot of beauty left in that building,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse. We could be looking at a whole block of buildings instead of one or two.”
Killey said Friday he has purchased a building across the street at 119 W. Second St. and is working to set up his cosmetology school and beauty salon. He hopes to be certified and ready to open by the end of March but said that may not happen until May.
“I’ve ordered the equipment for the school,” he said. “We have to build some walls and do some plumbing, but we are wanting to open as soon as possible because we have a lot of students who are just waiting, and we want to help them.”
Killey said the fire was an eye-opening experience for him and his family, one that has made them appreciate Seymour more.
“We never knew how good this community was or how many people would come to our aid,” he said. “There have been people who have stepped up to help us that we didn’t even know. I don’t have the right words to convey how much we appreciate what everyone has done.”
Some of the neighboring businesses were able to reopen soon after the fire, including This Old Guitar at 106 W. Second St. and STEPS Dance Center at 114 W. Second St., which both suffered smoke and water damage as a result of the blaze.
Isabel’s Estetica, a beauty salon, is operating out of a new location on East Tipton Street between Orange Leaf and China Garden. Owners have said it is a permanent move. Their former building at 108 W. Second St., suffered the most damage, and there is doubt it’s structurally sound enough to save.
Although La Mexicana, a Mexican mini-mart at 112 W. Second St., continues to make and sell carry-out food orders from their location, the business is suffering from the damage done by the fire, said owner Jesus Zuniga.
“We’ve lost 80 to 90 percent of our business here,” he said. “There’s a lot of smoke damage.”
Zuniga has not been able to reopen the grocery part of the business yet but still operates a food truck. He said they are waiting on the insurance company to make a decision before they can replace the 10,000-square-foot roof and redo the second floor, where the family lived.
But that work will require warmer weather to complete, he added.
“We need some kind of luck,” he said.