Fort Worth contractor accidentally tears down wrong house

Posted Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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City officials are trying to figure out what happened after contract crews tore down the wrong home in northwest Fort Worth on July 12. They were supposed to wreck a condemned house next door.

“It’s obviously a series of mistakes, and we’re working to be right by it,” Councilman Dennis Shingleton, whose district includes the Lake Worth-area home at 9716 Watercress Drive, said Wednesday.

David Underwood, the property owner and the development director for the United Community Centers nonprofit in Fort Worth, said the home had been in his family for years.

He and his wife have put their home in southwest Fort Worth up for sale and were planning to move to the Watercress home, Underwood said. The house once belonged to Underwood’s grandmother. The couple bought it from his aunt this year, and it was vacant.

The couple discovered the razing Saturday after returning Friday night from a trip to Boston and dropping by the house to mow the lawn, Underwood said.

“We hadn’t been by in a month,” he said.

What they found: a slab and a mailbox with the address number — but no home.

“I can literally remember sitting on the counter when I was a little kid, and my grandmother would cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever,” Underwood said.

The home that the contractor was hired to tear down, next door at 9708 Watercress Drive, was still standing.

Shingleton, whose assistant took Underwood’s call Monday and helped direct him, said workers from the demolition contractor appear to have marked the wrong house.

The city, in a statement issued this week to KDFW/Channel 4, which first reported the story, said: “On July 12, 2013, contractors demolished the wrong property on Watercress Drive. The property to be demolished should have been 9708 Watercress Dr. The property that was demolished was a vacant structure located at 9716 Watercress Drive. City staff is meeting to determine what happened.”

City spokesman Bill Begley said Wednesday that Fort Worth is still investigating. It’s due to pay the contractor $6,070, he said.

The city has asked Underwood to put a value on the house and is examining what it thinks the building was worth, Underwood said.

The 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath home, built in 1951, carries a $122,200 market value on the Tarrant Appraisal District website — $82,200 in improvements and a $40,000 lot value. The TAD site says the property had no garage; Underwood says it did.

The couple had been considering upgrading the home, which Underwood said had no code complaints. He said he isn’t clear on what it will cost to rebuild.

A neighboring property owner called the city during the demolition to say it was tearing down the wrong house, and crews stopped short of taking out the slab, Underwood said.

“So one of the questions I have is, Are you going to take the slab up now?” he said.

Underwood is hoping for a quick settlement.

“If the city’s already admitted fault, the only question is the amount of the damage,” he said.

“If the city is just reasonable, if the city just goes off TAD.”

It’s not the first time Fort Worth has found itself in the middle of this kind of case.

A couple in the Stop Six neighborhood sued the city this year, alleging that Fort Worth tore down the wrong commercial building on Valentine’s Day 2011 and won’t pony up.

Ernest and Verna Leck filed suit in state District Court in Fort Worth against the city and its demolition contractor. The city knocked down the Lecks’ 50-by-50-foot building at 1926 Amanda Ave. when it was supposed to wreck someone else’s building next door at 1928 Amanda Ave., the suit alleges.

The city filed a response, denying the allegations. Begley said the city can’t comment on the case, because it’s in litigation.

Ernest Leck ran a grocery store in his building for years and closed it in 2000. It was vacant at the time of the demolition, Verna Leck said.

The couple had been asking for $150,000 before filing suit, and the city didn’t make a counteroffer, she said.

“In this market, it’s going to cost a heck of a lot more than that” to rebuild, Leck said.

The Lecks’ building virtually abutted the one next door, and the demolition contractor likely assumed that both structures were one, she said.

The lawsuit, assigned to the 17th District Court, asks for the value of the building and personal property destroyed, attorneys’ fees, and damages for mental pain and anguish.

Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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