Nearly three weeks ago, a noticeable sinkhole was discovered next to Parrish Place. At about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, a newly formed sinkhole swallowed part of the office building adjacent to U.S. Highway 17. Tony Jordan, the owner of the building at the intersection of North Fraser and Prince streets, said he is relieved it happened late at night rather than during the day when the building would have been full of workers and customers. It houses the UPS Store, Nationwide Insurance, the Marine Recruiting Station and Floyd Brace Co. Parrish Place is not the only building that has suffered damage -- although it is the most severe. Cracks were found on the walls of the County Judicial Center about a block away last week. Workers checked Thursday night and noted more cracks had formed. They also said there was a noticeable "drop" in the area of the courthouse where the holding cells are located. There were also some cracks found on the walls of Bank of America at the Highmarket Street-U.S. 17 intersection. The Citgo gas station across from Bank of America was closed when the collapse of the adjacent building occurred. Another sinkhole formed near the Highmarket and Dozier Street intersection. It was the second to form at that location in less than two weeks. Jeepy Ford, whose family owns the land across from the now-collapsed Parrish Place, said he has started to see damage in his building -- the former showroom of Parrish Motor Co. "I am starting to see cracks in there," he said. "Last week, I saw cracks in the parking area."
He said he has also seen damage inside the building. Ford said there are at least five buildings known to be damaged because of the sinkholes. "And mine may be number six," he said. In recent weeks, workers have been pumping out water from underground which, according to City Administrator Chris Eldridge, is necessary so the concrete needed for the city drainage project can be poured underground. It is estimated about 60,000 gallons of water per hour for the past few weeks has been pumped from underground. Ford said the water pumping is to blame for the damage. "These buildings have been there for decades and nothing has changed except they pumped the water from underground," he said. Jordan was on the scene watching with his family as emergency crews started examining the damage. Since the first sinkhole formed, he has hired several experts to try to figure out what is causing them. Jordan does not know for certain the water pumping is what caused the sinkholes, but he has said he wonders "if it is just a coincidence" that the holes formed not long after the project began. Jordan said he had already been looking at vacant buildings around the city where his tenants can relocate in case the problem got worse. "Right now the only thing I want to say is I am so grateful no one was in that building and no one was hurt," Jordan said