NEW BRITAIN - The fate of a condemned Arch Street building that went up in flames last month is still in the hands of local, state and insurance investigators, all of whom are working to determine the cause of the blaze.
The Building Department and the Fire Marshal’s Office condemned 408 Arch St. on Feb. 1 ordering the residents out. People scrambled to find permanent lodging and were placed at a local hotel until new apartments could be found and the owner of the building, Saul Berger, of New York City, could settle with his tenants.
The four-story building, which included six apartments and two ground-level stores, burned a week later. The building had been secured days before, building officials said.
Now investigators are trying to determine the cause to figure who will pay for the demolition of the building or if it will be rehabilitated, said Sergio Lupo, the city’s director of health.
“It’s a very involved investigation,” Lupo said. “They have sent samples to the state lab and are looking at videos. Right now the building is secured and we’re waiting to find what the insurance company is going to do.”
The building has been deemed structurally safe by a licensed structural engineer, but if it were left over an extended period of time, the condition could deteriorate, Lupo said.
When building and fire officials took a tour of the structure Feb. 1, they quickly determined the residential units and one commercial unit would have to be shut down immediately due to hazardous conditions.
They found no working fire alarms, a private club operating in the basement, electrical and plumbing problems and sub-standard heat that forced tenants to huddle together in one room in frigid temperatures. One apartment bathroom ceiling was covered with black mold and the stairway leading inside was falling apart with chunks of plaster from the ceiling piled on the landings and holes in the walls. One window had been covered with sheet rock rather than replaced with glass.
Berger was ordered by Lupo, to correct the conditions or the building would stay condemned. Berger was ordered in court to pay two previous fines issued by the Department of Licenses, Permits and Inspections for blighted conditions including an accumulation of trash and debris on the property. Berger has not responded to several interview requests.
He did not receive any tax incentives or funding from the city since he has owned the building doing business as Arch Garden LLC, according to a report to City Council members written by Kenneth Malinowski, the acting director of the Department of Community Development. City records indicate that Berger became the listed owner in 2005.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or .