A 60-unit apartment building at 930 North Blvd. must be evacuated by midnight on Nov. 10 on orders from Oak Park’s village government after municipal inspectors found that floors on at least two levels of the building slope as much as four inches toward the center of the structure.
On Nov. 5 Steven Cutaia, Oak Park’s chief building official, sent a memo to the building’s recently hired management firm saying that because the building management could not produce a “structural stability report” by a deadline that day the village was ordering that all residents be notified that day about the “building’s potential structural issues” and that all tenants had to be evacuated and relocated by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 10.
James Moore, portfolio manager for 33 Realty, said Monday that his firm’s first priority was to “make sure everyone is safe” and that management was complying with the village’s orders.
Moore said 30 units in the building are currently occupied but he could not give an exact number of people living in the building.
Tammie Grossman, development customer services director for the village, said Monday that the village’s urgent actions came “because we have enough concern that the building is compromised and it could collapse.”
As of Tuesday morning, Cutaia said 33 Realty had not provided the village with the evacuation plan it had requested.
The six-story building was sold was $8.3 million in December 2019 to Goldman Investments, which has been working to update the apartment units in order to compete with newer, luxury apartments that have been constructed in recent years in downtown Oak Park.
Tenants, some of whom have lived in the building for decades, have been slowly leaving as their leases expire. According to tenants who talked to Wednesday Journal on Monday, the property management company planned to increase monthly rents by nearly $1,000 as they were renovated.
Jim Agin, a tenant of the building for 38 years, said he’d already been looking for a new place to live in anticipation of his lease expiring next May.
“They wanted us out, because they were renovating the old apartments,” Agin said. “I was looking for something, because I was not going to pay [more in rent]. I like the building but I don’t like the new apartments. The building is still not perfect, so I don’t want to pay that kind of rent.”
With news that he had to evacuate, Agin said he now was in the process of finalizing a move to another apartment in Forest Park.
“If everything goes through I’m going to go there,” Agin said. “The hardest part is I have to worry about movers.”
Austine Bridgeford, who has lived in the building for 18 years, was planning to live in the building until her lease expired next April, but on Monday afternoon she was carrying cardboard boxes to her top-floor apartment to pack her things while continuing to nail down exactly where she was going to stay for the time being.
“According to the property manager, he said he was going to find us somewhere to relocate, but I don’t want to invest in an apartment that I might not like,” Bridgeford said. “What apartment building is going to take someone they don’t know on three days, four days [notice]?”
Bridgeford said she was not aware of any structural issue with the building, though she did say “there is a slight slant” in the floors and that sometimes she notices the building shakes when trains pass on the adjacent Union Pacific tracks.
“At night when I go to sleep I pray to the Lord that he holds this building stable, so I can wake up,” Bridgeford said.
Village inspectors who visited on Oct. 22 to review renovation work on individual units discovered the notable sloping of first- and second-level floors from units on both the north and south sides of the building toward its center core.
Asked if a four-inch slope was notable, Cutaia said, “Yes, it seems like a lot.”
When Cutaia convened a team of village and other officials – the interim fire chief, fire marshal and a licensed architect on call for the village – to inspect the building they also found that a concrete beam running above a shuttered ground-floor swimming pool had been “repaired” at some point with 10 tension cables seemingly installed to stabilize the beam.
The village government has no record of a permit ever being pulled allowing that repair or for a follow-up inspection. Cutaia said it not known if that repair was made “30 years ago or two, three or four years ago.”
It is unclear how long ago the swimming pool was shuttered. A 2008 news story in Wednesday Journal reported on the drowning death of a 22-year-old building tenant in the pool.
Neither the village nor the property manager has a record of any structural engineering report being commissioned. Moore said 33 Realty had taken over management of the renovation and leasing of the building “only a few days ago.”
Asked if there had been an inspection of the building’s structure at the time of its $8.3 million sale in late 2019, Moore said, “As far as we can tell there wasn’t. And we can’t have it done in a matter of days.
“We believe the building is sound. But we need to prove that to the village,” he said.
Cutaia said inspectors were in units on the first and second floor of the building where they observed the sloping floors. He said he believes the same concern exists on every floor of the building.
Cutaia said in a phone call on the afternoon of Nov. 8 that the village did inspect 930 North Blvd. in October 2019, just two months ahead of its sale. Cutaia said it was a routine inspection which looks for code violations, such as missing smoke detectors rather than structural issues. He said the building failed inspection “on a few small things.” But he said that inspecting fully furnished and occupied units would have made it difficult to see any issues with the floors of the units.
Goldman Investments appears to have also purchased another condo building on North Blvd. The building at 922 North Blvd. is being marketed by 33 Realty for lease along with 930 North Blvd. under the moniker of “Rhythm and Blues.”