Demolition begins at burned, historic Auburn building

Demolition has begun on the Heritage Building, where there was a devastating fire earlier this week. (Photo: KOMO News)

AUBURN, Wash. -- Demolition work has begun at the scene of Tuesday's devastating fire in downtown Auburn. Crews are shoring up the second-story walls to enable the re-opening of Main Street. The fire hit at a time when the city was in the midst of revitalizing downtown.

The Heritage Building has been a fixture in downtown Auburn for nearly a century. It was built sturdy, which is apparently why it's taking the giant excavator a bit of time to knock down some of the walls.

"Devastating," said Dell Gibson as she watched from her shoe store across Main Street from the fire. "Very sad to me. The businesses and the people up above it."

The fire burned for several hours Tuesday afternoon and evening. An exact cause has not yet been determined. No one was hurt, but the businesses and apartments are a total loss.

One of the main reasons to get this place picked apart is to reopen Main Street to go along with their revitalization of downtown Auburn. New mixed-use residential and business buildings have popped up in downtown where Tavern Row once stood.

"This was the tavern block," said Mayor Nancy Backus on a tour of downtown. The taverns are gone replaced by the new 'One Main' building. Across Main where the old Cavanaugh's Hardware Store once stood for 121 years now stands The Trek apartments and Merrill Gardens senior living. Soon coming to the empty lots across from City Hall are two mixed-use apartment buildings.

"It looks like it's going to be a beautiful addition to our downtown," said Backus. "More people transit oriented development. People will be able to take the Sounder into Seattle. A little expensive living in Seattle. It's more affordable here in Auburn."

The hope for the burned building is the demolition and the building of a new one that retains the historic flavor of downtown auburn. "This is historic downtown Auburn and most of us would like to keep it historic," said Giovanni DiQuattro who owns the Rainbow Café next door to the fire. He just re-opened the bar and hopes to re-open the café portion Friday.

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