‘I had to sit down:’ Owner of vacant Conway building recalls when he learned about the collapse

News13 Digital First

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Downtown Conway is still reeling from Tuesday’s building collapse on Laurel Street.

A vacant structure collapsed because of a truss failure, according to a report performed by city-hired engineers.

“I came as soon as I could and checked that nobody was hurt,” Conway City Councilman Tom Anderson said. He’s the owner of the property. “And then I had to go sit down.”

He says he had a highly stressful day and evening, counting “about 30 text messages in a matter of 2-3 minutes” after the building fell.

The building used to stand at 209 Laurel Ave in downtown Conway. It dates back to the 1930s, and has been under Anderson’s ownership since September 2016.

“We were hoping for an Italian restaurant and a pizza place,” he said. “I had a lot of people with great ideas interested in getting into the restaurant business, but were not able to fund that.”

He says he hasn’t done much work on the property since purchasing it, but checked in on it regularly.

“There were no renovations. The only thing we’ve done is clear up and empty the concrete floor out,” Anderson said.

When asked if there was anything that could have been done to prevent the collapse, Anderson was sure there was not.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “If so, I would’ve seen it the week before. I come into the property regularly.”

Anderson, in addition to being a city councilmember, owns a contracting company that specializes in working with historical sites.

“That’s one of the things I love about Conway,” Anderson said. “We go to great lengths to protect old things.”

The city’s spokesperson, Taylor Newell, says the city works to ensure its older buildings are preserved and maintained.

“We have a Community Appearance Board,” Newell said. “And a lot of what goes on in that board is talk about vacant buildings, talk about dilapidated buildings Conway.”

She says business owners need to keep an eye on their buildings to avoid situations like this one.

“If you see something that looks strange, anything that looks strange that you want us to take a look at, call us,” she said.

Newell said the city worked to remove rubble from the sidewalk and that further repairs are left up to the owner.

“We have equipment coming in tomorrow,” Anderson said. “Saturday we should be demolishing all the things that might not be safe. And making sure all our neighbors are safe to get in their offices as soon as possible.”

Newell says that Conway does not perform inspections on vacant buildings unless specifically requested by the owner. Anderson isn’t sure yet what the future of the lot will be, but is looking forward to having a clean slate.

News13 has requested inspection records and permits filed for this property. Count on News13 for updates on this story.


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