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11th and Howard building could be saved

Posted at 11:20 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 00:20:13-05

The chief Omaha building inspector said demolition crews might have to tear down what's left of the building if experts deem it a public safety hazard. 

Between the smoke, flames and frigid temperatures, Omaha fire chief Bernie Kanger called it some of the worst possible fire-fighting conditions.

Now those who worked and lived there are trying to figure out what's next. 

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert hopes the historic building stays in tact, "We are all hoping for the same outcome, and that is to save and rebuild the centerpiece of the Old Market".
 
After hours of water dousing this building on 11th and Howard Streets, huge ice sickles, broken glass and charred brick are what's left. 
 
The city said at this point, it really depends on Mother Nature saying the ice is now acting as an insulator. 
 
"If we have this slight thaws freeze like what we've got going on right now we are going to be okay-have to remember that was done at the coldest night of the year-so the brick has already expanded-what we have to look for now is how that freeze-thaw happens," said chief Omaha building inspector Jay Davis. 
 
As of this moment, no one has been allowed inside the building because of its unstable condition. New on Monday, there's this fence blocking off foot traffic around the building for safety reasons along Howard and 11th and Howard streets. 
 
"So nobody can get into the building or around the buildings at this time," said Davis. 
 
City officials now say the concerns are the awning on the east side of the building and the north wall could collapse. 
 
"Certainly we don't want to see that building torn down, it's an area where everybody recognizes that part of Omaha-it's kind of a signature for us," said Davis. 
 
Davis added if it turns out it the building isn't safe this Old Market centerpiece will have to come down, "Hopefully we don't have to use that D-word because we just don't want to do that".
 
Mayor Stothert said she spoke to the Mercer family who owns the building and she said if the building is deemed okay, the family hopes to rebuild, which could take up to two years.