Crews rappel off First National to survey 80-year-old facility

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OKLAHOMA CITY - "Came by to a small little purse shop, but we can't seem to get over there,” said resident Annalee Velasco.

Residents hit a roadblock Tuesday on their downtown commute. Robinson Avenue between Park and Main Street remain closed.

The reason? Officials believe water seeped behind limestone panels on the 22nd floor of the First National - causing them to crumble.

"… some of that single digit, that ice expands and it will overpower any of the joints that may be holding those,” said Gary Brooks, president of Cornerstone Development.

So, Cornerstone Development, the property's owner, flew in engineers from Chicago and New Jersey to make sure there are no other pieces that could come loose.

"We've got to take care of the safety of our community. People expect us to do this right and to do this quickly. We've got to get this street open, so we don't think about cost at this point,” Brooks said.

They couldn't put scaffolding up that high, so the experts are rappelling down the building - assessing the damage.

Until then, Robinson will remain closed and scaffolding is being put above the sidewalks to make sure nothing falls on pedestrians below.

"We're incredibly lucky it happened Sunday night when there wasn't a Thunder game. This could have been a much worse situation so, despite the challenge, I feel very fortunate,” Brooks said.

The one million square foot skyscraper was built more than 85 years ago.

It's currently closed for extensive renovations that will include restaurants, residential living, a hotel, retail and parking garage.

It's a beloved landmark for those who grew up in Oklahoma City.

"I used to come down here as a little child. Mom and I would come down and deposit dad's check at that bank."

What's old is being turned into new again, with a few setbacks along the way.

"You hate having Robinson closed down, but there's no way we're going to move these barricades until we're 100 percent sure there's nothing else that's going to fall off of that building,” Brooks said.

The goal is to reopen Robinson Wednesday, but it will be up to what the engineers find.

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