Belvedere chimney moves

July 01, 1997|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

Ninety-three years of standing at attention have taken a toll on one of the Belvedere's four chimneys, causing it to move -- and traffic around 1 E. Chase St. to stop.

Yesterday, a week after Belvedere employees noticed some movement in the northeast chimney of the 14-story building, the Department of Public Works closed the block of East Chase in front of the hotel, between North Charles and North Lovegrove streets, about 5 p.m.

But for at least an hour afterward, some drivers in the rush-hour traffic missed the warning signs at Chase and St. Paul streets and had to come to a stop. A number of the drivers tried to go the wrong way on Lovegrove.

The hotel's northeast chimney starts at the 11th floor, and its top is even with the top of the building. It has been leaning for about nine years, said Merle Burge, site manager of the Belvedere, but she had noticed no movement until a week ago. Since then, the engineering firm Mulea-Levi Inc. has been looking at the problem and might start working on it today, she said. The repair schedule, how the chimney will be fixed and the cost were to be decided at an emergency meeting last night.

"It's the kind of thing you just don't play with," said Burge. "It's better to do something now than wait until something happens. It's a landmark building and we want people happy and safe."

Burge said nothing like this has happened to the building before. "All the chimneys are in perfect condition with the exception of this one," she said.

A structural engineer with Mulea-Levi said she couldn't say how long it might take to repair the chimney or what might have caused the movement.

"I think it's probably a little premature to answer that," said Carmen Mulea, who said the upper part of the chimney is cracked and leaning. "We are taking steps to have it fixed."

Mike Forney, 22, and the other valet parkers at The Belvedere can't wait until that happens: Until then, they're losing tips. Forney estimates that business is down 80 percent, and those who are coming aren't in a good mood.

"People have been complaining a lot," said the Linthicum resident. "It makes people mad because they have to wait."

Pub Date: 7/01/97

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