PORTLAND, Ore. – Concerns over a possible high-rise building collapse caused evacuations and traffic jams in downtown Portland Tuesday.
Children were pulled from a day-care center and hundreds of office workers spilled into the streets with their eyes turned upward to watch as cracks in a building at 1400 Southwest 5th Avenue were visible and fueled concerns about a possible structural collapse.
Engineers said that the damage was limited to the facade and that no structural collapse was imminent. Employees were allowed to enter the building and get their belongings a couple hours later.
“What was seen on the façade there was a localized buckle to the façade,” said Bureau of Development Services spokesman Ross Caron. “Structurally it’s sound.”
The Portland Bureau of Transportation said traffic in the area opened at 2:40 p.m.
Scaffolding will be placed around the building to guard against more pieces of the façade falling to the street. Sidewalk around the building will remain closed, fire officials said.
The incident started at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday when Portland Fire and Rescue crews responded to a possible threat of a building collapse in downtown Portland. Listen: Dispatch audio on threat of collapse
Photos showed what appeared to a large bulge and crack along the side of the building, located at 1400 Southwest 5th Avenue. Firefighters said the building was evacuated within 10 minutes and no one was hurt.
A 24-Hour Fitness on the same block was also evacuated. A company statement said the gym would remain closed until authorities deem it safe to use. Updates will be posted on the location's Facebook page.
A worker at a business inside the building noticed the crack outside, between the fifth and sixth floors, fire officials said.
Portland police closed a two-block radius around the building. TriMet service was also disrupted in the area.
It's unclear what caused the large bulge and crack along the side.
Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees PBOT, said the building owner would hire an engineer to conduct an evaluation and submit the findings to the city, which will take appropriate action if needed.
The 10-story building is known as the Fifth Avenue Building and houses a range of tenants, including a Kindercare facility, a FedEx location and eBay corporate offices. Officials said that remodeling work on an interior area around the 5th or 6th floor may have led to the buckling of the facade.
The 187,920 square-foot building was completed in 1951.
KinderCare officials said they were evaluating other care options for children served by that facility.
"One of our KinderCare centers is located in that building. Thankfully, every child and teacher from our center is safe. Our teachers are prepared for emergency situations and were able to safely and calmly evacuate every child from our center to our designated evacuation area at a nearby business," the company's statement read.
Caron said there was no record of any major concerns or "dangerous building" designations for the building.
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