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Walls come tumbling down

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Paul Kapka maneuvers his backhoe with expertise Thursday while demolishing the building on the corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue, the future site of Sterling Drug.

WORTHINGTON -- More than one passerby stopped on the sidewalk to watch in fascination as two big backhoes made short work of demolishing a decades old building Thursday morning.

The building on the corner of 10th Street and Fifth Avenue came down without much of a fuss, though there was dust, screeching and a few groans. Most of the noise came from the buildings and the demolition machines, but there was a scattering of applause and even a few whoops of appreciation from people who stopped to watch.

Most recently the building housed Iowa Lakes Orthopedics, but over the years it has been a donut shop, a job service center and a grocery store. Susanne Murphy of Worthington Excavating said she found "Thank you for shopping at Hy-Vee" painted on one inner wall before the demolition began.

"It is kind of ironic," she said. "An old Hy-Vee is coming down while a new one is being built."

Murphy's company will have the rubble moved by the weekend, she said.

"Our goal is to not have it here for the weekend," she laughed. "And to keep it off the street."

Watching how quickly the backhoes demolished the walls and roof of the building, the timeline seems very achievable.

"In that (backhoe) is Paul Kapka," she said, pointing at the yellow machine closest to the road. "He has been doing this for more than 30 years. He is so good he could unbutton a shirt with that thing if he wanted to."

Adam Nelson, a Worthington Excavating employee, was operating the machine toward the back of the building, tearing through the old concrete and steel like it was cardboard.

Once a building is demolished, Murphy said, the rubble is sorted into piles of metal and concrete and hauled out by truck. A water truck would be on hand to keep the mess watered down.

"It controls the dust," she said.

On Wednesday, she explained, they took down a smaller structure behind the Iowa Lakes building.

"We had it down in 40 to 45 minutes," Murphy said.

Once the lot is cleaned up and prepared, construction will begin on a new Sterling Drug building.