NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Crews worked to clean up a street in Norfolk Monday night after a partial building collapse along a strip of businesses downtown during the afternoon.
“I heard sort of a cracking noise and then just a huge crash, and then you could see billowing dust and everything,” said Todd Savage, who works at an architecture firm across the street. “We ran out hoping nobody was hurt. Fortunately, nobody was on the sidewalk at the time.”
The collapse happened around 3 p.m. in the 500 block of Botetourt Street. A total of five businesses were affected, and are currently closed: Cure Coffeehouse and Brasserie, My Yoga Spirit, Hummingbird Macarons & Desserts, Voila! International Cuisine and Space Design Group.
It was a close call for customer Luisa Black, who had been sitting outside Cure Coffeehouse and walked away just a minute before the collapse.
“I was sitting pretty much right underneath the awning,” she said. “While we were sitting there, it was me and somebody who works there, there was like some kind of rubble falling down, and we were like, ‘Oh, what’s with all this black stuff that’s falling from the sky?’ We thought it was something random falling from the trees,” Black said.
She said she later left the area and friends from inside Cure called immediately after the collapse to make sure she was okay.
“It’s kind of sad, honestly, because all my friends work there, and it’s also incredible. I’m really happy to have been not there when it happened,” Black said.
Battalion Chief Julian Williamson, with Norfolk Fire-Rescue, said no one was injured when the building’s overhang fell. He said crews are classifying the incident as a partial building collapse, pending a complete evaluation of the building’s structural integrity. Williamson said fire marshals and city officials were checking out the building.
“I was getting ready to open the restaurant, and I heard two cracks,” said John Tsouris, owner of Voila! International Cuisine. “I went over there to see what was going on and the whole place collapsed, I think. It was horrible and thank God no one was outside walking around getting hurt. We are all thankful for that. It sounded like a train. I was freaking out.”
Virginia Natural Gas and Dominion Virginia Power turned off utilities in the building.
Fire crews closed Botetourt Street between Bute Street and York Street. The 300 and 400 blocks of Bute Street were also closed.
Many of the affected businesses took to social media to update their customers and community of what happened and what their plans were. Cure Coffeehouse posted this message to Facebook just before midnight:
What a day… As mentioned before, the most important thing about today is that no one was injured. If the awning of the building had collapsed just 24 hours prior with hordes of people walking to and from Harborfest this incident could have been catastrophic. Two people had left our patio table less than a minute before the collapse. An owner at Space design studio had just turned the corner from leaving her office. John at Voila was standing at his front door as the several hundred pounds of terracotta tile and supporting structure dropped to the sidewalk. Things literally fell into place this afternoon. We are so very grateful.
We want to thank Norfolk Fire and Rescue and Police for all of their assistance this afternoon. We were given a 30 minute allowance to unload inventory and supplies from the building and Norfolk Firefighters helped us carry items from the building, that was above and beyond. John, Stephan, and family from Tortilla West, A.W. Shucks, and Chow not only offered us refrigeration space to store food but also offered employment coverage for affected employees. Scotty Quixx offered up freezer space. Omar from Omar’s Carriage House helped load and move supplies. Machismo provided cold beverages. Upon hearing the news many of our employees, customers, neighbors and friends arrived to offer assistance. We want to give a public “Thank You” to everyone that helped us out this afternoon. What a community we live in!
We will be talking with our landlord, engineers, inspectors, insurance companies, and more tomorrow and hope to figure this mess out. Hope to provide some good news in the near future.