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Brick rain highlights need to maintain older NU buildings

NEW ULM — Routine building maintenance is an ongoing need for buildings on downtown Minnesota Street.

Wednesday night, dozens of bricks rained down on a Minnesota Street sidewalk after dislodging from the parapet of a three-story apartment building on the corner of 1st South and Minnesota.

The bricks landed a few feet from two public benches and tables. No injuries resulted from the falling bricks. Caution tape was placed around the entire building corner.

The exact cause of the incident is unknown.

Before this incident, the city had contacted the building owner about fixing a section of the bowed wall on the structure’s south face. An attempt was made to repair the building by removing loose plaster from the bricks. The damage occurred after a worker tried to remove sections of the plaster from the building. The removal of the paster near a window also pulled the bricks from the parapet.

New Ulm City Building Inspector Ellwood Zabel said a contractor and structural engineer will visit the building on Monday to determine the extent of the work needed to make the building safe. The structural engineer will also look at the building at 307 N. Minnesota St.

Barricades and caution tape have blocked off the sidewalk and parking areas around the building at 307 N. Minnesota since early February. The barricade was put in place due to concerns about structural stability.

Zabel said the concern with this building was also the brick structure. Moisture infiltration had caused a bowing problem with the bricks.

The owner of the building was given 30 days to bring the building to code but this never occurred. The city is now seeking cost estimates to make the repairs and assess the cost to the property taxes.

With two buildings on opposite ends of Minnesota street experiencing structural issues, there is concern other buildings could have similar problems.

“With the age of these building, owners need to start looking at maintenance,” Zabel said. He suggested going through the buildings to make routine checks of the structures.

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