UPDATED and VIDEO: Demolition underway on former Peerless Cleaners building in downtown Fort Wayne

Demolition crews began work today on tearing down the former Peerless Cleaners building on Main Street between Fulton Street and Fairfield Avenue. University of Saint Francis bought the property this summer to save for potential use in the future. (By Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)

Demolition work has begun on the former Peerless Cleaners building at the southeast corner of Main and Fulton streets.

Crews were working on the inside of the building Tuesday morning and had started on the exterior structure by afternoon.

As The News-Sentinel reported in July, the University of Saint Francis bought the building for $300,000 and said at that time the structure would be demolished.

Peerless Cleaners had moved out of the buildings and opened its storefront location about two blocks east at 238 W. Main St.

The razing of the buildings on the site, will take three to four weeks or slightly longer, said Rich Bienz, USF vice president for finance and operations.

Environmental remediation services company EnviroForensics of Indianapolis then will come in to clean up soil contamination problems resulting from the buildings’ prior uses as a dry cleaning business and a car dealership, Bienz said.

That process could take at least three to four weeks because some areas of contamination could be 10 to 12 feet deep, he said. There possibly also could be an underground storage tank, which will have to be removed.

After the remediation is completed, any excavated areas will be backfilled with stone and brought up to ground level, Bienz said.

University officials aren’t sure yet how the property will be used, Bienz said. If the existing parking lot remains in good shape following demolition work, USF may turn the rest of the site into parking, he said. If the existing parking lots sustain a lot of damage during demolition, USF may decide to put the land in grass for now.

Bienz said the university bought the property as a strategic investment in land that was available near its downtown campus, which is centered at the former Chamber of Commerce building at the northwest corner of Ewing and Wayne streets. The land now will be available if needed for any future use at the downtown campus area.

Late this fall, USF also finished the complete reconstruction of the parking lots it owns in the block bounded by Fairfield Avenue on the west, Berry Street on the south, Ewing Street on the east and Main Street on the north. The 210-space parking lot serves students, faculty and staff at the university’s downtown campus.