Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Explosions and demolition in the Upstate

This past Sunday the skyline of Greenville was changed forever with the demolition of Scott Towers at 511 Augusta Street. In less than 20 seconds the 14-story building was reduced to a pile of concrete, and we were there to watch!

Scott Towers was built in 1970 under the federal housing program, and for 43 years provided subsidized housing for low-income seniors. The building was named in honor of Elmer E. Scott, a chairman of the Federal Housing Board for 35 years. The Greenville Housing Authority made the decision to implode the building after estimates on bringing the structure up to code exceeded demolition costs by a significant amount, and the structure has been vacant since March 2013.

At 7am a 600-foot safety perimeter was set up, and evacuations of homes and businesses in the zone begun. Streets around the towers were closed, and at 9am the final security sweep was completed. We parked and made our way to Greenville HS, where we joined hundreds of other curious onlookers armed with cameras and mugs of hot coffee. Soon came a blast from a fire engine’s horn, warning of 5 minutes to go, and finally three blasts signaling the demolition was set to begin. At 9:30am an initial series of explosions activated the system, followed by another series of explosions that were the actual charges going off. The center of the building collapsed first, rippling outwards with the corners crumpling neatly inwards, and less than 20 seconds later all that remained visible was a great cloud of dust. This is the largest building to ever be demolished in the Upstate.

Greenville is making the most of the demolition, with training for first responders occurring before and after the implosion. Local EMS, law enforcement, rescue resources and medical personnel have the opportunity to practice high-rise operations and simulated scenarios in a realistic situation that otherwise might not be available. I wish them all safe but effective training in the coming weeks.

Spectators were spread out over several blocks
Greenville Housing Authority is utilizing the St. Louis-based development company of McCormick Barron to redevelop the site, with plans for 197 multifamily units and 142 senior garden apartments in a mixed-use, mixed-income community. Being located so close to downtown, Greenville HS and Fluor Field, I expect the resulting development will be a welcome modernization in the West End Historic District. Meanwhile, we just have to deal with two kids that want to watch the video over and over and over and over…


  1. Wow, how exciting! My boys would love to watch the building blow up too I'm sure.

  2. Exciting stuff but I wonder where the elderly were re-located to and if there wad much trauma involved. Certainly something you wouldn't see too often!


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