RICHMOND, Va. — A building that has been a part of the downtown Richmond skyline for over four decades will disappear in about 20 seconds Saturday morning.
That is when Dominion Energy’s old 21-story office tower at 7th St. and E. Cary St. is set to be demolished, weather permitting, at 7 a.m. on May 30.
Several road closures are already in effect:
• 7th Street between Canal and Cary Streets – reopening June 4;
• 8th Street between Cary and Canal Streets – reopening June 2;
• Canal Street between 9th and 7th Streets – reopening by end of day on June 1; and
• Cary Street between 5th and 8th Streets – reopening by the end of the day on June 1.
A 15-block area around the building will be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic starting around 5:30 a.m.on May 30 and will reopen in the hours after implosion, with the exception of the street closures noted above. The 15-block area will encompass the south side of E. Main Street from 10th to 5th Streets to the north side of E. Byrd Street, also from 5th to 10th Streets. Both Main and Byrd Streets will remain open on May 30.
Crews have been preparing the building for demolition since mid-October 2019.
“We started the soft demolition. We had some abatement we had to do and we worked basically six days a week up until and continuing through this week,” said Ken Tysinger, Corporate Senior Manager with D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company, one of the companies tasked with getting the building ready for implosion. “We've had a lot of long days and hours getting the building prepared, getting it stripped out down to its bare bones structure.”
Once the wrecking company had finished its work, crews from Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI) began preparing the building to be imploded. That work included drilling 2,563 holes throughout the structure.
“Reinforced concrete columns, shear walls, and beams,” said Mark Loizeaux, President of CDI. “Into those holes, we loaded a total of 3,270 pounds of dynamite, which is a nitroglycerin-based explosive. We have an a non-electric initiation system that gets all those charges going off in sequence at a specific delay pattern and that included 3.4 miles of detonating cord.”
Loizeaux said explosives had been placed on 13 levels of the building. He added the explosions will be delayed in a way that will tilt the structure a little to the north before it is brought down into what is called the “bath tub”, the large hole crews have dug around the structure.
“We have a total of 117 secondary delays and the secondary delays and another 260 micro delays are primarily intended to reduce the…noise level from the detonation of explosives so we don't damage windows in the adjacent properties,” added Loizeaux.
Crews have also set up equipment around the perimeter to protect surrounding buildings from dust and debris. This includes blocks of shipping containers, 60-to-80-foot tall blast curtains, and something called “dust bosses”.
“Essentially, it's a snow blower. Obviously, we're not making snow in late-May. We're using that to provide a fine mist of water to assist with mitigation of dust,” said D.H. Griffin Regional Manager Will Booker.
As to how the implosion is supposed to play out, Loizeaux said it should be over in about 20 seconds.
“Whoever is watching is going to hear nine separate delays over a six-and-a-half second period. It’s going to go ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.’ and nothing's going to happen. It's just going to sit there. That's the initiation system going off,” said Loizeaux. “Then the demolition charges are initiated by the internal blasting caps that are inside those columns and shear walls and beams. That's the ‘Boom, boom, boom’ that comes after it and that's what's going to bring the building down with gravity’s help.”
Loizeaux said an example of a similar demolition conducted by his company was of the 28-story Capital Plaza Office Tower in Frankfort, Kentucky done back in 2018.
Officials said about 35,000 to 40,000 tons of reinforced concrete debris will be brought down by the implosion, but up to 95% of the material will be recycled.
“[The concrete will] be crushed and it'll go out and be used on other projects in this area. So, it will have another life,” said Tysinger. “The reinforcing steel, all of the steels that we'll take out of the structure, the aluminum, any copper, all of the metals go into recycle. They'll come back to us again and another form another day.”
Officials added they understand there is interest in demolition, but they ask people do not come out to watch and encourage them to instead watch from home.
“We don't consider this a spectator sport at all. This is explosives handling. It is dangerous by definition,” said Loizeaux. “But, I recognize some people like to be there. We just ask that they comply with the direction from the police, the fire. They're there for your safety. Don't do anything they say you can't do and everything will go fine.”
As for the clean-up of the site once demolition is complete, officials said that should be done by mid-summer.
A spokesperson for Dominion Energy says the company will announce at a later date what its plans are for the property.