Middletown roof collapses under heavy rain

The city closed Friday on a deal to sell the vacant building, formerly Rose Furniture, located at 36 S. Main St., to a private investment group, said Mike Robinette, one of the investor buyers.

The damaged building is next to the homeless shelter Hope House Mission. Most residents — 30 to 34 were staying there at the time — were at church services when the collapse occurred, said Hope House building manager Gary Edwards.

Edwards reported the roof collapsed at about 9:37 a.m. Sunday morning.

The caving roof goes to show the former Rose Furniture and Hope House buildings, adjacent, more than 100-year-old buildings, aren't safe, Edwards said. It could have been worse.

"From here, it sounded like there was a serious fight going on," Edwards said. "I'm surprised it didn't fall down."

Residents have been moved to the wing of the Hope House building furthest from the damage, Edwards said.

The bottom line is "the city needs to recognize this is an old building and we help a lot of people," he said. "We need a helping hand" for a new building.

"Every time there's thunder, we're going to be worried," he said.

South Main Street is closed between Central and First avenues until further notice for safety precautions, said Middletown Police Sgt. Steve Ream.

"Due to rain, we had a partial collapse," Ream said. "Mother nature's just expediting" the problem.

The Rose Furniture building's leaky roof was a known issue.

The building at 36 S. Main St. was condemned in May, deeming it too unsafe to be occupied. Hope House residents said the roof already had a hole in it before it fell in Sunday.

The city government acquired the building at no cost in 2011. Then council voted to demolish most of the building, except for the façade, in May this year.

Middletown Economic Development Director Denise Hamet told this newspaper in July something needed done soon, as a hole in the Rose Furniture roof was causing damage to other adjacent properties.

However, the group Historic Rose Furniture LLC stepped in, announcing intentions to salvage the 109-year-old downtown building. City Council in August approved a deal to give the former Rose Furniture building to the investment group to restore and reuse the structure. In the deal, the city also gave the developer $300,000 to stabilize the building and make repairs.

The deal closed Friday, and the deed has yet to be recorded, Mike Robinette, one of five investors of Historic Rose Furniture, said.

"We've got a structural engineer coming to look at it tomorrow," Robinette said. "Our concern at this point is if there's been any other structural damage done. We were going to be replacing the roof as part of the rehab on the property."

Even if the roof collapsed prior to the building's sale, Robinette said it likely would not have affected the deal.

"Our interest is to restore the retail space in the building and to restore the façade of the building and eventually lease it out for use," Robinette said.

Staff Writer Michael D. Pitman contributed to this report.

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