Barracks Road Stores Calling for Increased Fire Safety
Jan 14, 2013 04:18 PM EST
Monday, there are new calls for fire safety upgrades at Barracks Road Shopping Center. This comes a week after a fire at Plow & Hearth, which still has some businesses closed.
The original sections of the Barracks Road Shopping Center opened in the late 1950s. The wing where a fire broke out was a former department store, divided by what are called 2-hour fire walls between shops. They are about the only protection from a fire.
Owner of The Happy Cook, Monique Moshier, is discovering safety flaws exposed during the continued fire cleanup and repairs. Moshier says gaps around pipes and metal rafters coming through a fire wall made her damage worse.
"If it's a fire wall that's supposed to be separating these units, it just seems like it should have been sealed better than what it was," said Moshier.
The stores also have no fire suppression system in place. "No sprinklers, no smoke detector, none of that," said Moshier. "It is surprising that the building doesn't require that."
According to the state code book, older shopping centers do not need to meet modern building standards.
"They're [fire suppression systems] in places where people are more at risk - hospitals, nursing homes - places where people would have a tough time getting out on their own," said Tom Elliott, a Charlottesville building official.
The city's fire marshal says that fire suppression system coverage at Barracks Road is sporadic. Big retailers - including Barnes & Noble, Harris Teeter, and Bed Bath & Beyond - have them, while most of the other shops don't.
"It's expensive and my experience is if they don't have to do it, they don't really want to spend the money," said Elliott.
Moshier hopes installing some sort of alarm and sprinkler system is part of the discussion with the center's owner and insurance company as the recovery continues. "That the entire section did not burn down is shocking now that we see how easily that could have happened," she said.
Plow & Hearth's President John Haydock says fire suppression is now on the forefront for his store. The Happy Cook expects to re-open by January 25.
Statement from Deirdre Moore Johnson, Senior Director, Asset Management with Federal Realty:
"Federal Realty has been a part of the Charlottesville community since 1985 when we acquired Barracks Road. We own and operate our real estate for the long-term and as such, regularly evaluate and upgrade our properties and operate our properties in accordance with all applicable laws. We will continue to work with the City of Charlottesville and the merchants affected by the fire as they clean and refurbish their stores to reopen for business."
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