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Water damage to elevators closes city office tower

The city office building at the foot of the Ben Franklin Parkway will be closed through the weekend because of elevator damage caused by a broken water pipe.

The 18-story city office building at the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, formerly the local headquarters for Bell Telephone, will be closed through the weekend as contractors try to repair the building's elevators, damaged by water from a broken pipe.

Mayor Nutter said Wednesday that the 1,900 workers assigned to various departments inside the building should check with their supervisers to see if they should report to alternate work locations for essential services on Thursday. The building was already to be closed Friday because of a city holiday.

The building houses the city's Department of Human Services, Law Department, Parks & Recreation, Planning Commission, Commerce Department, the city Board of Ethics and the Philadelphia film office, among other agencies.

A broken hot-water pipe on the building's fifth floor broke Tuesday evening, setting off a smoke alarm but "frying" the electronics of all eight elevators as water cascaded down nearby elevator shafts, according to Bridget Collins-Greenwald, the city's public property commissioner.

She said contractors expected to repair the damage Thursday and Friday, and would work through the weekend if necessary so the building could reopen next Monday.

Several city agencies, such as the Zoning Board of Adjustment, had scheduled public meetings Wednesday but made arrangements to move them to other city buildings nearby.

Mayor Nutter told reporters that the Human Services Department had already implemented contingency plans to continue its essential operation at other sites.

He scoffed at the suggestion that city employees might use the building's stairways to continue working without elevator service, calling it "a disaster in the making" if a fire or other problem necessitated evacuation.

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