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SUV strikes Lawrenceville building

LAWRENCEVILLE - For the third or fourth time in recent months, a sport utility vehicle veered off the road in downtown Lawrenceville on Friday and slammed into the brick exterior of a historic building. In the process, the SUV mowed down a brick pillar, several bushes, a lamppost and two flower pots.

The good news: The Bistro Solterra restaurant was not damaged and no one was injured. However, brick paving and the lamppost on the corner of Crogan and Perry streets will have to be repaired at a cost of about $5,000, said Jim Steadman, director of utilities for the city of Lawrenceville.

Several damaged bushes had already been replaced by midday by the property owner, Lawrenceville Properties.

Bistro Solterra is located in the corner of the Button Gwinnett Building at 197 Crogan St. The building was constructed in 1895, and it formerly housed a three-story hotel with wrap-around porches.

Elizabeth Jaeger, owner of Bistro Solterra, was standing in the restaurant about 8:45 a.m. when she saw a 2004 Dodge Ram truck strike a 2002 Isuzu Rodeo broadside. The Isuzu then came barreling toward her restaurant.

"I thought she was coming through the window," Jaeger said. "I was standing right there."

Authorities had to pry open the passenger door to extract the driver, Stacey Sonnenschein, because the driver's door was only a few inches from the wall of the building, Jaeger said.

Coincidentally, Jaeger knew Sonnenschein from working together at the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office. Jaeger is a former assistant district attorney who left in July to pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, and Sonnenschein is a legal secretary.

According to a police report, Sonnenschein was at fault for the accident because she ran a red light while traveling south on Perry Street.

Tenants on the square have complained in the past about frequent automobile accidents that damage corners at each intersection.

"This is the third or fourth accident on this corner," Jaeger said. "It's weird. I think people get going too fast, especially on Crogan. At least one or two times a week, I see people traveling the wrong way (on the one-way streets that wrap around the downtown square)."

Steadman agreed that wrecks on the square are all too frequent.

"It happened two or three times last year probably on every corner at least once," Steadman said.

"It used to be the trucks, but we've sort of slowed them down a little bit. People run red lights. It's carelessness probably."