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Row house collapses in Johnston Square

A lone insurance adjuster stood by what was left of a dilapidated row house in Johnston Square Thursday morning, taking photos for what certainly will be an upcoming claim. The address in ruins was in the 800 block of E. Preston Street, just south of the historic Greenmount Cemetery. It was part of a $5.3 million rehab project of scattered vacant houses in the community, funded mostly with federal stimulus money. Mi Casa, a Washington-based nonprofit, is the developer of the project. Thursday, what’s left of the house littered the site, with nail-studded beams loosely hanging in a perilous position from the top story, aimed at the sidewalk below. What exactly happened, though, is in dispute. Top city housing officials including Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said Wednesday they did not know of the collapse of the structure. Graziano’s spokesperson, Cheron Porter, said in an emailed statement Thursday: “Mi Casa's end of group structure at 818 E Preston completely collapsed. It is fenced off and the debris is contained on site. They had permits, and it seems they were onsite and handled the incident themselves. They have not taken any additional action (re: new permits to reconstruct). The go forward issues are not principally code enforcement ones. They will have to appropriately permit the rebuild, or the razing of the foundation.” A neighbor across the street on Thursday described how the rowhouse “just collapsed” one day last month, sending a loud boom across the community. The insurance adjuster, said he was informed that the house had collapsed on Jan. 20, “and thank God, no one was in it or near it.” It went unreported for a couple of weeks, he added.

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