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Several Houses In East Baltimore Will Be Torn Down Over North Avenue Sinkhole, Mayor Says

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- City officials plan to tear down several of the houses along the 700 block of North Avenue after a sinkhole has put their structural integrity in jeopardy.

"We will need to demolish these properties as soon as possible," Mayor Brandon Scott said during a press conference on North Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

Officials shut down part of North Avenue in East Baltimore on Monday because the sinkhole had eroded a large portion of the sidewalk.

On Tuesday morning, authorities announced that part of North Avenue would remain closed until further notice.

By Tuesday afternoon, they had declared the area unsafe, in part due to a storm that dropped heavy rain on the city over the weekend, Scott said.

Officials made public their plan to tear down the houses during the press conference.

The closure affects traffic in both directions along a stretch of North Avenue between Greenmount Avenue and Homewood Avenue, according to details released Tuesday by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

The agency said detours are in place, with westbound traffic being rerouted at Homewood Avenue and eastbound traffic being diverted at Greenmount.

The closure stems from a large sinkhole that opened up along a sidewalk in front of homes in the 700 block of North Avenue.

It's recommended that drivers who use North Avenue take alternate routes, such as Preston, Biddle, and 25th streets, to avoid getting stuck in traffic, the agency said.

There is no timetable for the road to reopen to east- and westbound traffic.

City officials reiterated that fact during their Tuesday press conference.

"It's North Avenue, right? So we know it's a main artery," Scott said. "It's going to be a severe traffic impact but the most important thing is the safety of the folks who are working to make the repair and for folks traveling."

Public works crew could be seen doing repair work Tuesday morning at the site, which is being taped off until repairs are completed.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy said that demolition contractors made progress tearing down the houses endangered by the sinkhole over the past 24 hours.

Building inspectors evaluated properties along the 700 block of the street starting at 716 North Avenue. On Tuesday morning, they determined that the houses between 720 and 724 needed to be demolished, Kennedy said.

"Demotion contractors have been out working since this morning on taking down those properties," she said.

The investigation into the cause of the sinkhole is still underway, according to Tim Wolfe who heads the of Office of Engineering and Construction.

Wolfe's office has been assessing the century-old 15-foot drain at the center of the sinkhole situation. Part of that inspection is already complete but a full assessment cannot be made until the drain is cleared out, he said.

"We're going to go back tomorrow morning and do an assessment of the other half so that we can determine what the cause was," he said.

Kennedy said her department was working to assist homeowners who will be affected by the demolition process.

"We have advised all of the homeowners to contact their insurance companies," she said.

Some of those homeowners may be able to file a claim with the city once a full investigation into the cause of the sinkhole is complete, Kennedy said.

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