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Downtown business owners hopeful as Tama Building demolition starts

BURLINGTON, Iowa-- After it caught fire seven months ago, the Tama Building is starting to come down.

Crews started demolishing the building Monday, March 11. They're removing it slowly, one floor at a time to minimize the chances of it collapsing, and to minimize potential damage to those on the street.

"This has been a long time coming," says Suann Wells, owner of Beancounter Coffeehouse and Drinkery. "We're excited to finally see some movement in the demolition."

Wells says she's had to deal with street closures since the Tama fire, which has kept some guests away. The streets were supposed to reopen before Christmas but never did.

"The roads have been closed. Then they opened a little bit again and then they were closed again," she explains. "It's been hard. It's hard for people to get in and get out. And park and turn around."

Wells says before the fire, the Beancounter was just starting to make a name for itself, having been open for roughly two years.

"The fire happened and it just died," she says.

Now, the start of demolition is the start of a more hopeful future she says.

"We're not done yet," she says. "We're not gonna let the Tama Building win."

Just down the street, Chris Murphy has a front-row seat to the demolition.

"(I'm) actually excited," the owner of Burlington by the Books book store says.  "I was kind of, 'thank God, finally.' The sooner it comes down, the sooner we get our streets back. Besides not looking good, it keeps people away."

Murphy estimates his foot traffic went down by 20%  in the months right after the fire. Yet he says the community has come out to support the local businesses.

"We have great people in Burlington. Even outside of Burlington come in to say we're rooting for you. They're there. We know it, and we appreciate them," he says.

One downtown business wasn't able to make it through demolition of the Tama Building.

Tastefully Yours Bistro and Catering Company posted on Facebook last week, saying it would be closing in part because of the parking issues caused by the Tama Building and blocked streets.

Burlington City Manager Jim Ferneau says the building could be down by the end of the week. The neighboring building damaged in the fire was demolished last week.

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