Reality Check: Why did it take so long to clean up collapsed West Asheville building?

The scene at 290 Haywood Road in April of 2017. The building collapsed in 2015 and the rubble sat for over a year before the site was cleaned up. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

It's been nearly two years since a building collapsed in West Asheville, and some locals want to know it took so long for the site to be cleaned up.

The building at 290 Haywood Road collapsed on June 17, 2015. The rubble has sat there ever since.

After a trip to the county courthouse, News 13 learned the reason why it has sat so long, and why the site looks different now.

Larry Rice owns Absolute Small Engine Repair, which is located across the street from the collapsed building.

"Just anything would be an improvement," Rice said of the rubble.

The city had to shut down Wellington Street, which is the side street where people access Rice's shop.

"It was closed right at two months. It just knocked our business down. Our customers couldn't get in and out," he said.

The city said sinkholes, affected by rain, brought the building down two years ago. News 13 followed up with the fire department the next day about when it would be cleaned up.

"It could be a couple of days, it could be a couple of weeks. I don't know an exact answer," Asheville Fire Department Spokesperson Kelley Klope said at the time.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.

"Well, when it's tied up in litigation like that, that's all you can do," Rice said of leaving the rubble alone.

In October of 2015, the property owners sued contractors. The owners wrote they were in the middle of renovating the building. The owners blamed the contractors for the collapse, writing they removed too much dirt, which caused cracks in the foundation.

The day the building fell, workers were putting up temporary support, according the lawsuit. The owners claim it was 75 percent done when the workers stopped for the day. One hour later, the building fell.

It happened so long ago, the business across the street, Pizza Mind, didn't exist.

"I've never really noticed that building before, but I really hope they turn it into something we can prosper from," Abbye McHugh, a customer at Pizza Mind, told News 13.

The lawsuit settled in late March and demolition began two weeks later.

"We're real excited to see it. We were just -- it's just been a trash pit over there," Rice said.

The owner of the construction company working on the clean up said there are plans to rebuild. He hoped to start this summer, but didn't want to reveal the plans.

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