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Watch out for falling facade at Denver's Central Library

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Just as giant scaffolding is finally being removed from the Denver Art Museum, barriers are going up at Denver Public Library's central branch just steps away. Why? Last month, a window sill came loose and crashed to the ground. Fortunately, no one was hurt -- but crews have fenced off the area where it hit and are in the process of analyzing the building to make sure it has no other surprises in store.

So... is the iconic, Michael Graves-designed renovation, which was completed in 1995, just fourteen years ago, already falling apart? DPS spokeswoman M. Celeste Jackson doesn't think so -- but she simply doesn't know for sure right now.

"About a month ago, on the east facade, a window sill that was loose fell," Jackson explains. "We think it happened at about 12 a.m. We don't have security-camera footage of it falling off, but the camera that's most adjacent to the window jumped, and we figure that was about the time it came loose." Library staff responded by "putting up fencing around the perimeter of the building and areas where there's possible overhang," she goes on -- and since then, "we've been working with risk management and safety engineers to look at all areas of possible structural damage. Then we're going to go back and repair anything that seems unstable."

Although workers were already on site outside the building this morning, the lion's share of the effort is about to get underway. "By tomorrow, you'll start seeing a walkway like you used to see over by the Art Museum," Jackson says. "That will provide a security barrier, so if anything comes lose while the crews are working, it'll serve as a girder and block any possible debris during the time of the facade restructuring."

Construction is also going on inside the Central Library, but it's related to a spruce-up financed by the Better Denver Bond Program, not the plummeting sill. However, Jackson confirms that a couple of limited-use balconies on the seventh floor are out-of-bounds until an okay is given

As for the possibility that the Central Library is starting to crumble on a larger scale, Jackson says, "We're not hearing any of that. Right now, we're sort of early in this process, but the initial, cursory look we had from our structural engineers is that there are areas that are unstable and need to be reinforced. But we're not getting any kind of indicators at this point that the building hasn't been built sufficiently well and can't weather the test of time."

Hope they're right. Because we kinda like the place.

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