The Commercial Appeal

Water pressure issues force Downtown shutdowns

- Max Garland

Belz Enterprise­s has shut down water systems in the Downtown Memphis office buildings it manages “in order to preserve our properties” amid water pressure issues, CEO Ron Belz said Wednesday.

Office building tenants temporaril­y won’t be able to occupy the Downtown buildings until the issues that began late last week are resolved, he said. Belz Enterprise­s manages some 1 million square feet of office space concentrat­ed in Downtown Memphis, including Peabody Place, which Terminix’s headquarte­rs and the Pembroke Square office building are part of.

“We shut off all our water where we could and have had those buildings basically mothballed for however many days it’s been,” Belz said.

The water pressure challenges come after Memphis Light, Gas and Water issued a boil water advisory last week, and CEO J.T. Young said Tuesday some areas of the city still don’t have enough water pressure. Extreme temperatur­es led to broken water mains, frozen reservoirs and customers running their faucets to prevent freezing.

“It’s disrupted the use of our buildings, if things weren’t bad enough,” Belz said, noting that MLGW’S Mallory water pumping station serving Downtown remained out of service as of Tuesday morning.

The Belz Enterprise properties are experienci­ng highly variable amounts of water pressure. In a restroom in the floor above the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art at Pembroke Square, high water pressure “blew those valves completely off the pipes” of three sinks. This caused some flooding in the portion of the museum housing Asian art as water made its way through the ceiling, Belz said.

The museum has been closed to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Belz Enterprise­s remains “in the process of trying to recover from and assess all the damage,” he said.

The water inundated a few thousand square feet of the museum, soaking carpet and collecting in some of the museum’s cabinets, he said. Belz said the museum’s art pieces and artifacts have not sustained any damage they know of yet. However, any need to move delicate items to repair the museum would be a difficult and time-consuming process, he said.

Meanwhile, the pedestrian bridge connecting Terminix’s Downtown headquarte­rs to the parking garage across Third Street had a large water pipe in its ceiling get a joint “knocked loose,” he said. This brought water inside the bridge and some of it made its way into the headquarte­rs building. Terminix employees there are still working remotely during the pandemic.

“It also made its way through the floor of that bridge and basically tore out the ceiling over Third Street,” Belz said of the damage. “We had to shut the water off there as well.”

Water pressure readings at Belz’s office tower Wednesday morning show there is “sufficient pressure in and of itself to run the pumps,” Belz said, but he added he doesn’t have the confidence the underlying problem has been remedied yet.

“I am afraid, truthfully, of opening all our valves and then experienci­ng something that causes damage to our property again,” he said.

Disruption­s in water service haven’t been limited to Belz Enterprise­s’ buildings.

Downtown coffee shop Tamp and Tap said Monday it is closed until the boil water mandate is lifted, per its Facebook page, noting that it doesn’t have “gas/a stove or much in the way of cooking appliances” to boil water. Rum Boogie Café, a Beale Street bar, said on its Facebook page Friday that it’s using bottled water and soft drinks amid the advisory.

The Peabody Memphis hotel’s water pressure “really hasn’t been affected” by the issues as it has tens of thousands of gallons of water storage on property, said Kelly Brock, director of marketing, in an email. As for boiling water, she said the hotel has “been able to adapt quickly to serve our guests.”

Max Garland covers Fedex, logistics and health care for The Commercial Appeal. Reach him at max.garland@commercial­appeal.com or 901-529-2651 and on Twitter @Maxgarland­types.

 ?? COMMERCIAL APPEAL ARIEL COBBERT/ THE ?? Flooding damage can be seen in a portion of the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art in Memphis on Wednesday as water made its way through the ceiling.
COMMERCIAL APPEAL ARIEL COBBERT/ THE Flooding damage can be seen in a portion of the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art in Memphis on Wednesday as water made its way through the ceiling.

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