Ten men were digging out a rowhouse-size hole Friday morning in North Philadelphia when the building next door collapsed, momentarily trapping two of them under rock and rubble, authorities said.
The two unidentified injured workmen were taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where their conditions were not immediately available. They had been preparing the foundation for a four-story commercial-residential structure at 1730 Ridge Ave., where a one-story building once stood, when part of the adjoining three-story building at 1728 Ridge Ave. collapsed about 11:40 a.m., officials said. That building had been awaiting demolition.
The Fire Department declared the situation under control at noon.
Karen Guss, spokesperson for the city Department of Licenses and Inspections, said investigators were still assessing what may have caused 1728 Ridge to collapse. She said that the wall closest to the workers fell, and that the top two stories “essentially slid right off the building.”
Guss said that a demolition contractor was called to the scene to take down any remnants of 1728 Ridge as a precautionary measure.
It had rained for hours before the collapse but it was not immediately clear if the weather was a factor.
Guss said inspectors had visited the lot at 1730 Ridge earlier this week for a final demolition inspection. The building had been cited and shut down for illegal gambling in December 2007, she added.
City records show that a permit had been issued in October for construction of a four-story, mixed-use building with five residential units at 1730 Ridge, which is on a block that is being redeveloped one building at a time.
Guss said that a demolition permit had been issued for 1728, but that work had not begun. Property records show that Queens Properties LLC purchased 1728 Ridge Ave. for $263,000 in January 2017, and in July filed papers with the city with plans to build a mixed-use building with four residential units and commercial space.
Queens Properties was established last year by Donald Weiss, a Chadds Ford-based attorney and licensed real estate broker, according to paperwork filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
A call to Weiss was not immediately returned.
The median price of a single-family home in 2018 in the 19130 zip code in which the collapse occurred is $442,500, according to Philadelphia economist Kevin Gillen. That is a 34 percent increase from 2008, when the median home price in the zip code was $329,900, he said. This year, 253 homes have been sold in the zip code.
Friday’s building collapse was not the first in the city to cause injuries this year. In June, a contractor was killed in the collapse of a building under demolition in Brewerytown.