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Rising beneath the rubble

The top of the front wall of the building at 135 South Saratoga St. came crashing down on Wednesday, causing nearby buildings to shake and sending rubble spilling into the street.

But beneath the rubble and bricks, a new building is rising.

The Western Tidewater Community Services Board is remodeling the building, which served as its downtown Suffolk location until construction began recently.

“What we’re trying to do is remove an eyesore and remodel the building to complement the Downtown area,” said Cathy McEntire, principal for McEntire Davis Architects, which is doing the design work for the project. “It’ll be a completely different look.”

The community services board is responsible for delivering community-based services for citizens with mental health or substance abuse problems and for those with intellectual disabilities.

A major difference in the building will be the addition of a second storey, which will give the community services board extra space for its programs.

The building has been gutted, and construction crews with Spacemakers Inc., the general contractors in charge of the construction, are in the process of tearing down the front wall of the building.

“It was pretty much what we anticipated,” Randy Thomas, vice president and project manager for Spacemakers said of Wednesday’s demolition effort. “We’re tearing the building from the top down. About every two feet, we put a jackhammer in and bring it down piece by piece, but they decided it’d be easier to take the whole wall off.”

The crews had set up a temporary wall, approximately 5 feet tall, on edge of the sidewalk to prevent falling debris from spilling into the street; however, the rubble broke the wall and spilled into the street, causing a temporary traffic blockage.

“It made some noise and dust, but no one was injured,” Thomas said. “It’s our normal process. You could call it a debris quake.”

“The structural stability of the front wall is in pretty bad shape,” McEntire said. “It’s not one we could save with the look of the new building, so it made more sense to take it down.”

The remaining side and back walls will be maintained and used as a frame for the new building.

“By saving those three walls, we save the owner money and don’t have to take that debris to the landfill,” Thomas said. “It’s a win-win situation. We’re also reusing and recycling as much as we can in an effort to be more green.”

The new building also will serve as a transition between the historic and non-historic areas of downtown.

“It’s right on the edge of the historic district,” McIntire said. “We’re bringing in some features to help the building transition between the two areas.”

Construction is expected to be finished between in less than a year, according to board administrators.