Earl Warren, of Fort Dodge, was shopping at the Key on Central Friday afternoon when he heard loud banging noises from across the street.
When he looked outside, he was among the first to notice a section of the building at 1031 Central Ave. leaning out.
“I heard them hitting the awning,” he said. “I went back inside and had them call the police.”
As bits and pieces and whole bricks continued to fall. Fort Dodge police cleared the street of parked cars and pedestrians as a crowd gathered to wait and watch.
They didn’t have to wait long.
The tilting section of the wall fell in three large chunks shortly before 2:40 p.m., raining bricks, dust, mortar and bits of wood down onto the sidewalk and into 11th Street.
It left a cloud of dust and a gaping piece of missing wall.
The building, listed by the Webster County Assessors Office as owned by Royal Properties LLC of Moorland, has had parts of it fall down before.
Bricks fell on Aug. 28, 2015, and on March 5, 2018.
The structure was cited for property maintenance code violations in December 2017 for problems with the bricks and windows according to City Manager David Fierke.
Fierke said it was identified as a dangerous building in April 2018. It cannot be occupied.
In July 2018, previously fallen bricks were cleaned up off the sidewalk and an orange safety fence put up. Full repairs to the building were apparently not made.
Fierke said Friday afternoon that the building owner is responsible for removing any part of the building that is in imminent danger of of falling down.
He said city officials will ask the building owner to present a plan for repairing it.
”We will get with them and get their plan of action,” Fierke said.
The problems with the building have had an effect on others in the area.
Jeff Hart, owner of Harty’s Caddy Shack restaurant at 1101 Central Ave. is tired of it.
“It’s been two years,” he said. “They’ve done nothing.”
He said that no longer having parking available on the west side of 11th Street has impacted his business. He said many of his customers are afraid to park there.
“My customers won’t park on that street,” he said.
As he surveyed the fallen bricks Friday afternoon, he remained grateful it wasn’t worse.
“It could have been one of my customers,” he said. “It could have been me, I park there.”
“I’m still open,” he said, “through thick and thin.”
Warren stuck around and watched the wall collapse with about two dozen others. As the dust cleared, he realized he didn’t have his shopping from the Key.
“I guess I better go back in and pay for my stuff,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, a crew working from a bucket lift knocked down the remaining section of the wall that was leaning out.