Oak Park building collapse closes Harrison, injures one

Unclear Wednesday afternoon what caused structure to crumble


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Oak Parker Jack Tavolacci was strolling to his first day of work at the Buzz Café when he heard a "huge bang." He turned the corner to see the front of the building right next to his work falling apart.

"Bricks just kind of fell off the building," said Tavolacci, 17. "Pretty wild."

Just before 2 p.m. Wednesday, the front of the one-story commercial building at 201-207 Harrison came tumbling down. Village officials, police and firefighters were on the scene shortly after, but no one could say for certain what caused the collapse.

A pedestrian apparently sustained some bumps and bruises when a brick fell on her, according to Village Manager Tom Barwin, but no other injuries have been reported.

"To state the obvious, it's a minor miracle that no one was seriously hurt," Barwin said while on the scene of the collapse.

Chicago Community Bank filed to foreclose on the building, which houses Prodigy Glassworks and a yet-to-open Chinese restaurant, back in February.

The current property owner, Chris Kleronomos, was spotted standing across the street from the building, but declined to comment. A judge recently appointed Dan Harrington to act as a receiver to oversee the property. Harrington, who was also on the scene, said he's been managing it for about a week. (A receiver is typically tasked with keeping up the building, collecting rents and paying bills, until the court determines otherwise.)

Harrington was unsure what caused the collapse, but said a crew was expected to be on the scene by 4:30 p.m. to start cleaning up the rubble and securing the façade. Harrison was shut down between Lombard and the alley to the west, and Barwin expected it to reopen once the building was secured.

The western most section of the building, which housed the recently closed Briejo restaurant, retained much of its brick façade. Harrington said his crew would need to examine that portion of the façade.

"We've got to figure out, structurally, if that wall is safe. We don't think it is," Harrington said. "If it isn't, they're going to knock it down"

Harrington said a Chinese restaurant was slated to take up the corner space of the building. A contractor had been working for some time to restore the façade, though work had halted a few weeks ago.

Steve Touloumis, chief building inspector for the village, confirmed that permits had been taken out to do the work. But he did not know as of Wednesday afternoon whether the work was outside the scope of what was approved by the village.

For more on this story, see the Aug. 17 print edition of Wednesday Journal, and check OakPark.com for updates.

Reader Comments

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cheryl from oak park  

Posted: August 13th, 2011 5:44 PM

Chris- I work at the Buzz and have NEVER heard anything derogatory said about you or your property. Ever, by anyone. I hope everything works out for the corner property, the glass shop is wonderful and I was looking forward to Chinese!!!


Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:39 PM

The one I am concerned about is Matt and Prodigy Glassworks. Matt took on a big challenge opening in the Art district just as athe economy collapsed. Now his building collapses. Oak Park should rally around him and get him back in business quickly or assist in his relocation. He has been nothing but an asset to the community!

will Bumpous from La Vergne  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:15 PM

If you look for foundation integrity compromise you will find soil footing failure due to rifting or stretching of the area. I would suspect more buildings to do the same soon. Good luck and hope there is an investigation for the city.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:46 PM

I walk my dog along that area, just glad no one was hurt. It is sad to see these businesses now suffer especially in this economic climate. Hope they can resolve this and save the building. Heard its going to take a lot of structural work done to even go back into the buildings safely. Think this is going to be an eyesore for awhile!!


Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:37 PM

It will be interesting to discover the type of contractor Keronomos used.

Laura from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 12:12 PM

Chris K., I don't know what you are talking about- I said no such thing about your building. I have spread no rumors about that building. I have only expressed extreem gratitude that no one was hurt and sadness that one of our best businesses-Prodigy Glassworks will be without a home. This particular incident seems to stem from the construction and not neglect.


Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:53 AM

wow it sure looks like chris kleronomos has a comment!

Don from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:19 AM

Say what you will about Chris but this seems squarely on the contractor's head. They've been working on that facade for quite a long time; something wasn't done right.


Posted: August 11th, 2011 9:56 AM

chris kleronomous a few years back spent his personal cash building concrete flower beds on harrison st. he taint evil. things happen. sounds to me te workers are at fault but no one can really say just yet. what i wonder about is, what constitutes a minor miracle? minor injuries??

Goodfella from Cicero  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:32 AM

Whoa, A million bucks? I know that didn't come out of your pocket. What kind of juice are you paying on that? Let's get together and talk, I'm sure we could do some business.

chris Kleronomos from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:17 AM

I wish to advise the ignorant and uninformed commentors who are again spreading the malicious Buzz gossip of the truth. For the record the 201-211 property had obsolutely no violations and never has had any violaation. In fact it has been the receipient of nearly one million dollars of renovation restoring the building to its historic Louis Sullivan condition. If you and Laura don't know what you are talking about keep your mouth shut.

Goodfella from Cicero  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 7:47 AM

So Geronimo was standing there watching his building collapse. What's with that? When I torch one of my buildings, I got sense enough to get out of town before the cops show up. If I want to see the results of my work, I just wait for the insurance check to show up. Fuggetaboutit.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 7:32 AM

Hey, wasn't Kleronomos the guy who has been jerking around our community for years? Always wanting more time, asking for variances, wanting to buy the alley, promising to fix up his buildings, blah, blah, blah. This clown should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

Angelo Joseph Messina from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 7:01 AM

A one sentence paragraph at the end of the report may be significant in determining the cause of the collapse. Building restoration is a tricky proposition if you do not understand structural forces acting on any one component of a building under restoration.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 12:59 AM

Receivers are lawyers not dare devils! As far as what I would have done, I am dopey enough that I would probably have been washing the windows under the facade.

Chris from Chicago  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 12:55 AM

Its truly a shame! Prodigy Glassworks is an amazing place creating some of the most beautiful artwork. They just got started there and I hope this does not negatively effect their long term business. Lets hope they can rebuild quickly.

Matt from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 11:00 PM

John, the article also says that he's been managing the property for a week. Would you have checked into the facade in your first week managing that property?

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 5:18 PM

I feel bad for the Prodigy Glassworks folks...but it would be wonderful if that property could be turned into some sort of green space. Maybe a picnic area? I can't remember that building's last tenant...

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 5:10 PM

I love the statement that the receiver is responsible for "keeping up the building." It is clear that he failed his first task.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 5:00 PM

Seems to me that if someone got hurt they could sue the city for improper inspection as a underlying cause. Of course, they would have to prove it. Considering the history of the building that might not be too difficult.


Posted: August 10th, 2011 4:34 PM

Why would the Village be liable if it is owned by Kleronomos?

anne from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 4:14 PM

Why am I not surprised that the building facade has fallen off. They have been "remodeling" that building forever!

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 4:07 PM

Now that is art!

frank rubin from oak park   

Posted: August 10th, 2011 3:43 PM

We heard and felt the impact because we have had the "pleasure" of living around the corner from this and the other Kleronomos buildings for two years. If G-d forbid somebody had been hurt, the village would have been as liable as the landlord. Glad that the beautiful items at Prodigy were not harmed.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 3:32 PM

What an eyesore! If my house looked like this corner I'd be fined.

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 3:22 PM

This was totally unexpected. Years of code violations and complaints have kept this building standing for years. I glad no one was injured.

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