The piles of bricks, glass and steel were gone this morning and Harrison Street at Lombard Avenue was reopened to traffic. But 24 hours later, it’s still unclear what caused the collapse and what the next steps might be.
The front of a one-story commercial building at 201-211 Harrison fell apart Wednesday afternoon, spilling bricks on the sidewalk and street, and injuring one passerby. Daniel Harrington, the receiver who’s been managing the foreclosed property for about a week, said cleanup crews arrived on the scene at about 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and police gave the OK for the street to reopen a little after 5 a.m. Thursday morning.
A sidewalk in front of the building, from Lombard to the alley just west, remains closed, along with the parking spots just north. The lone tenant remaining in the building, Prodigy Glassworks, has been asked to vacate until the property is safe to occupy.
Harrington said it’s still unclear what made the façade topple. But he and several village officials are meeting at the building this afternoon to start investigating further.
“I’d love to say we had a strong wind and it knocked it down, but we had no winds yesterday,” he said. “It’s weird, ’cause there were no signs of any stress or anything on any part of that building.”
Chris Kleronomos, the current owner of the property, has not returned calls seeking comment. The building was constructed in 1922, and a contractor started fixing up three vacant corner storefronts there to be used as a Chinese restaurant. But village officials say work had halted a couple of weeks ago, possibly around July 19, when a judge appointed Harrington as the receiver to oversee the property.
One possible cause for the collapse was the lack of “coping” at the top of parapet walls, which would have kept water from seeping between the two layers of brick, Harrington said. He’s unsure why it was taking so long to replace the façade.
“We don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t take that long to do a storefront. Something is wrong, and we don’t know why,” Harrington said.
Rumors surfaced that construction vehicles had been driving down the street the day before, possibly causing vibrations strong enough to shake the building down. But Village Manager Tom Barwin shot that speculation down.
“Buildings are not supposed to fall when vehicles legally using the streets drive by,” he said.
Since the building is still technically owned by Kleronomos, injuries sustained to one passerby and damage to two vehicles out front would be covered by his insurance, according to Harrington.
Oak Parker John McCloskey had his Honda Civic parked right in front of the building yesterday afternoon. He was sitting at a bench across the street chatting with a friend, when he watched in amazement as the wall toppled over, followed by a “wave” of dust.
He was scrambling Wednesday to get a rental car, as he and his wife were planning to drive up to Michigan on Friday. McCloskey wants village hall to go after Kleronomos hard, after seeing a couple of kids nearly hit with some of the debris. But Barwin said no punishments will be issued by the village until they figure out what, exactly, caused the collapse.
“I’d like this Mr. Kleronomos to go to jail, if at all possible,” McCloskey said.
For more on this story, see the Aug. 17 print edition of Wednesday Journal, and check OakPark.com for updates.