CSUN Parking Garage to Be Demolished : Earthquake: A year after structure collapsed in the temblor, it will become the first campus building torn down.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nearly a year after the Northridge earthquake, officials at Cal State Northridge are finally preparing to demolish the campus' partially collapsed parking structure--a painful reminder of destruction that people wanted to forget.

A contractor worked Friday to set up the heavy equipment that will demolish the four-level, 2,500-space concrete structure on Zelzah Avenue and pulverize the rubble into walnut-sized nuggets to be used in other construction projects. The job will take about three months, and work is expected to begin early next month, the contractor said.

Although the quake damaged all 53 major campus structures, the garage is the first building to be demolished.

"It's a metaphor for the earthquake," said Paul Hurley, project manager for Cornerstone Recycle Group, selected by the university for the $637,000 demolition job.

"Everyone is damn tired of seeing it and everyone is going to be glad to see it go. It's part of the healing process," Hurley said.

The demolition waited for months while a university-hired engineering firm conducted an inquiry into whether the $11.3-million garage was properly built in 1991. That report finally was turned over to CSUN officials last month. But university officials refused to release it or discuss its findings while they decide whether to use it to take legal action.

The report was prepared to help determine whether Cal State officials had any legal basis for suing the project's builder, Glendale-based A. T. Curd Constructors, for construction flaws or other problems. Andrew Curd, the company's president, said Friday he did not expect any litigation, insisting as he has all along that the garage's design and construction complied with building codes.

Cal State officials previously have said that the east and west ends of the garage collapsed in the Jan. 17 quake when some interior support columns failed. The weight of the giant concrete floor slabs then pulled the stronger exterior sections inward.

The largest piece of Cornerstone's equipment--a truck-sized machine that will pulverize the garage rubble--was set up Friday on the lawn of the campus library. A campus spokeswoman said it will make up part of the security barrier for President Clinton's speech at the campus Tuesday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the quake.

Sometime after the President's visit, the company expects to start demolishing the garage, using a large impact machine like those that dismantled the remains of freeway sections that fell in the earthquake. Once on the ground, other equipment will break up the rubble into smaller pieces and separate the steel reinforcing bars from the concrete, Hurley said.

Once the chunks are no larger than two feet in size, they will be fed into the company's large electric-powered processing machine, where a disk of four manganese alloy bars spinning at about 2,000 revolutions-per-minute will pulverize the rubble into small pieces, Hurley said. The material then will be stored at a nearby site pending reuse.

The campus may use some of the material for paving and other construction projects, he said. Some of it also will be used to fill in the hole left in the ground when the bottom slab of the parking structure is removed. Campus officials have said they plan to leave the garage site as landscaped open space after the demolition.

Throughout the fall semester that ended in December, students and faculty members on the sprawling 353-acre campus complained that the garage was a painful eyesore and reminder of the estimated $350-million damage the quake inflicted on the university. As the months wore on, most said they wanted to focus on the recovery, not the original destruction.

Hurley's El Centro-based company--also known as the Choicestone Corp., according to state records--spent several months last year grinding up about 107,000 tons of earthquake debris under a $639,000 contract with Santa Clarita, city officials there said.

Some of that rubble still sits in a field in Valencia awaiting reuse in construction.

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