After months of planning and many delays, the demolition of the east building at Hunting Towers began at 7 a.m. on Monday.
Using a wrecking ball, Old Dominion Demolition Co. began knocking down balconies and the brick façade. “After the bricks are loosened by the wrecking ball, they will be clawed off the building by a clamshell grapple,” said John Undeland, director of public affairs for the Woodrow Wilson Project. “This process prevents the scattering of any of the asbestos and caulk around the window frames from spreading.”
As of the end of the first day of work, residents of the two remaining buildings thought the demolition company was doing a good job.
“I expected clouds of dust,” said Ardith Dentzer, the president of the Hunting Towers Hunting Terrace Tenants Association. “They seemed to be doing a good job containing the dust and debris in a very small area.”
The work began on the east wing of the tower, an area that is closest to the river. “The plan is to work their way around the entire building, knocking off the bricks and removing the bricks,” said Reed Winslow, the Wilson Bridge Project director for the City of Alexandria. “Once they have completed this process, they will start all over again and knock down the frame and the floors. Once the building has been knocked down to the first four floors, they can build a ramp and use an excavator to bring the remaining structure down.”
DENTZER SAID that not many residents were there to watch. “Most people were at work or just weren’t aware of exactly when this was going to happen,” she said. “There have been several delays for various reasons.”
Now that the work has begun, the initial phase of removing the bricks is expected to take about two weeks. “They should be finished with this part of the work by the end of the year,” Winslow said. “They may still be hauling the bricks away, but that should be about it.”
The bricks will be taken to a disposal site in the Tidewater area. “Once the bricks are hauled away, the remainder of the demolition should take until the end of January,” Winslow said.
"Once the bricks are off the entire building, the main structure will then be clawed down. This will enable the contractor to salvage the cement, which will be ground up for future construction use. The contract calls for the concrete to be used on-site and not sold. The concrete will be used to fill in the basement cavity and garage," said Undeland.
The Old Dominion Demolition Co. will have some additional site work, such as removing pilings and cleanup. Demolition of the two office buildings and the Hunting Terrace buildings is not expected to begin until summer.
Gazette reporter Chuck Hagee contributed to this story.