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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    Manwaring owner threatens lawsuit related to collapsed New London church

    A damaged retaining wall prevents debris from spilling off the former First Congregational Church property off Union Street in New London on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (John Penney/The Day)
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    A damaged retaining wall is preventing debris from spilling off the former First Congregational Church property off Union Street in New London on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (John Penney/The Day)
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    A section of grass on Tuesday, April, 23, 2024, separating the Manwaring Building (left) on State Street and the First Congregational Church collapse site in downtown New London. (John Penney/The Day)
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    The Manwaring building on State Street in New London on Tuesday, April, 23, 2024, looms over the pile of debris that made up the First Congregational Church. (John Penney/The Day)
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    New London ― The integrity of a damaged retaining wall is at the center of a pending lawsuit launched against the owners of a collapsed downtown church property.

    High Tide Capital, owner of the Manwaring building at 223-229 State St., filed a notice April 11 with the New London Superior Court naming Engaging Heaven Inc. ― owner of the 66 Union St. church property ― as a defendant in a potential lawsuit related to the retaining wall’s stability.

    The High Tide Capital group, doing business as Manwaring LLC, spent years renovating the adjacent building, transforming the aging structure into dormitory-style apartments for Connecticut College students.

    High Tide’s attorney Maria K. Tougas said in an email on Tuesday that “the unfortunate collapse of the historic church caused material damage to the retaining wall that is between the former church building and the Manwaring Building, part of the Manwaring Building’s structural foundation.”

    Tougas said the city’s building department, concerned over the retaining wall’s stability, restricted access to the nearby area that includes several Manwaring parking spaces.

    “To repair the property, the wall will need to be fixed and made safe again,” Tougas said. “The court action is to protect the property owner’s rights, including in connection with the damaged wall.”

    The filing alleges a violation of a state statute concerned with the proper maintenance of fencing.

    On Tuesday, the wall, which is flush with the rear section of the Manwaring building, showed signs of distress, with small pieces of stone and gravel scattered along the ground not far from a twisted section of metal fencing.

    Felix Reyes, the city’s director of economic planning and development, confirmed Tuesday the church collapse damaged the rear retaining wall, which was built to prevent soil from spilling down from the church property.

    Reyes said the city, on the recommendation of the e2 Engineers firm and its building officials, ordered a section of property near the damaged barrier fenced off soon after the steeple collapse.

    “And it’ll stay like that until (Engaging Heaven) can verify it’s safe or has been repaired,” Reyes said. “In situations like this, the onus is on the property owner to make a property safe.”

    Engaging Heaven representatives did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.

    Dash Davidson, a principal with High Tide Capital, declined to comment on the pending lawsuit and referred questions to Tougas.

    As of Tuesday morning, no formal lawsuit had been filed with the court clerk’s office.

    j.penney@theday.com

    Editor’s note: High Tide Capital is the owner of The Day building at 47 Eugene O’Neill Drive in New London.

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