Demolition begins on northeast KC church

08/29/2014 2:51 PM

08/29/2014 3:24 PM

Roommates James Beckner and Joseph Criswell on Friday sat in the same parking lot where more than 40 kids sought refuge earlier this month after the northeast Kansas City church they were in partially collapsed.

Beckner and Criswell, who live in the neighborhood, watched as heavy construction equipment tore down the building at 3200 Independence Avenue that housed the Rios de Agua Viva church.

“I wished it never would’ve caved in,” Beckner said. “It was a nice little building.”

Demolition began Thursday and the two roommates were planning to spend the day Friday watching the building come down.

“We thought maybe they could save the front, but they couldn’t save it,” Criswell said.

More than 60 people were inside the three-story brick church when the building started to shake mid-morning on Aug. 7.

About 44 children were attending a three-day vacation Bible school when a large section of the back wall crumbled.

The children and staff evacuated safely from the building. No one was injured in the collapse.

Beckner and Criswell had been drinking coffee when TV stations broke in with breaking news of the collapse. They rushed down to see what happened.

“We’ve been watching it ever since,” Criswell said. “It’s just been something to do.”

Church officials and a spokesman for the demolition company could not be reached for comment Friday.

The church has since been surrounded with a large plywood fence with signs warning: Danger. Construction area. Keep out.

As a safety precaution, Benton Boulevard at Independence Avenue was closed while crews worked.

Neither Beckner nor Criswell had been inside the building, but they will still miss it when it’s gone.

They fear the land will remain vacant.

“I was hoping the church would rebuild,” Beckner said.

“I’m hoping they put something back in there that will look nice for this area,” Criswell responded.

Maybe a nice restaurant or diner, Beckner added.

“It will be weird just driving by with nothing taking its place,” Criswell said.

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to bcronkleton@kcstar.com.

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