SOUTH BEND — For some, it must have seemed like the sky was falling.
Twice in less than 24 hours, pieces of a downtown parking garage came crashing to the ground.
The first, between 9 and 10 p.m. Wednesday, occurred at the entrance to the Chase Tower parking garage on Washington Street, when a large section of bricks and concrete above the exit to the garage fell to the ground.
The damage — which some described as looking like a two-story-tall truck had tried to enter the garage — caused enough concern that all of the cars parked inside the garage were removed. Washington Street, between Main and Lafayette, remained closed until this afternoon as workers with a crane tried to assess the damage.
Ken Herceg, who owns an engineering and architectural firm that manages the building, said a chunk of concrete that fell from the building would be investigated to see if was built correctly. He said it’s likely water seeping into the concrete caused the steel reinforcement to rust, resulting in the chunk of concrete and brick falling from the building.
The second falling debris incident occurred just before 2 p.m. today, when a 3-foot-by-5-foot section of brick facade fell off the city-owned parking garage at Wayne and St. Joseph Streets, above the State Cafe.
The falling debris — really just tiles designed to look like bricks — landed on the sidewalk below without incident. No one was injured, but the sidewalk below the area was closed off as a precaution. The building appeared to suffer no structural damage and vehicles were not removed from the garage.
At the Chase Tower, Herceg said, no other damage or signs of rust were found during an inspection of the garage. But, he noted, cars will not be allowed to park in the structure until the area above the exit has been repaired — possibly as early as Friday, if the proper materials can be found.
All of the building’s tenants — including the Ramada Hotel, a Chase Bank branch and the building’s restaurants — remained open Thursday, despite the street closure. Herceg said the 25-story building, the city’s tallest, was safe.
"They’re confident the rest of the structure is fine," Herceg said.