Building Collapses Near H Street

DCRA Investigating Status of Renovation

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DC FEMS and District officials watch the dismantling of the partially collapsed building that fell Thursday, Jan. 15 at the corner of Florida Avenue and Staples Street NE. Courtesy: P. Hutinet

A building collapsed at the corner of Florida Avenue and Staples Street NE at around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, narrowly missing two pedestrians crossing the latter street as bricks cascaded into the street.

DC Fire Emergency Services (DC FEMS) Truck 13 arrived on the scene of the former Staples Market (1364 Florida Ave. NE) moments after the collapse. The truck just happened to be passing at that precise moment as it returned to Trinidad Station (1342 Florida Ave. NE) only one block away.

DC FEMS officials said the building, which had been surrounded by a fence, had been under renovation. One pedestrian was struck by flying debris and was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Surveillance video of the collapse and arrival of DC FEMS was captured by neighbor Andy Feliciotti, who shared the video on Twitter:

With all the construction workers accounted for, DC Fire officials ensured there was nobody trapped in the rubble, taking a K-9 unit into the building to do a secondary search. An inspector from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) was also called to the scene.

A bystander heard a District official say that a criminal investigation was likely to take place, with owners potentially facing massive fines, clean-up costs and even jail time. The Hill Rag has reached out to MPD in regard to a criminal investigation.

DCRA records indicate that a permit had been granted in October 2019 to renovate the existing two-story commercial building into a four-story, 18-unit apartment building requiring full structural work and underpinning to be included.  However, in December 2019 an application was filed to reduce the total number of units to 14 and the height of the building by one story. That permit is under review.

A DCRA representative said that while permits had been issued, DCRA inspections would determine exactly what work was on going and whether this work matched the permits that had been granted.

This is a developing story.