By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Photo Source: http://www.rivertowerscondo.org/
As vintage condominium high rises continue to age, we are hearing more and more reports of major structural damage as a result of inadequate maintenance over the years.
Hundreds of Northern Virginia condo residents were evacuated on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 2, 2016) when their high-rise building shifted on rotting support columns, suddenly sinking 2-3 inches, according to fire department official Brian Foley. Foley blames failure of the support columns on years of water infiltration due to improper maintenance.
Most residents of River Towers Condominiums were allowed to return home later in the evening, but dozens must find another place to stay while emergency repairs are made to their building. According to reports, that will entail jacking up the building and replacing several support columns.
However, River Towers consists of three structures with shared gas, electricity, and water utilities. Residents that chose to return home after the evacuation must live without natural gas used for heating, hot water, and air conditioning. The gas supply has been turned off as a precaution until further evaluation and repairs can be made.
Significant Structural Damage Found at Fairfax County Condo Building (VIDEO, NBC4 Washington DC)
Residents of 32 condo units are not allowed to go inside their apartments, officials say
A 10-story condo building in Fairfax County had to be evacuated Sunday afternoon after significant water damage to some of the building’s columns caused the building to lower 2 to 3 inches, officials say.
Fairfax County firefighters and building officials found significant structural damage at one of three River Towers Condominiums buildings at 6631 Wakefield Drive in Alexandria, Virginia. A resident noticed cracks in a few columns and called the fire department.
River Towers Condominiums is a vintage building constructed in 1963, converted to condos in 1983. According to the Association’s website, portions of the buildings and grounds have recently been updated, and the Association has avoided a special assessment for 25 years.
A quick check of current real estate listings reveals that prices start at $145K for a studio unit, up to about $280K for a 3-bedroom model. Current condo fees range from $265 to $844 per month, including most utilities and access to pool and recreations facilities.
However, given the nature of repairs needed to three high-rise buildings, assessments are likely to increase significantly in the near future.
Why was there inadequate or improper maintenance of River Towers Condos? For one thing, governing boards are made up of volunteers, and very few have knowledge of engineering, architecture, construction trades, or facilities maintenance. But large associations generally hire a management company to handle day-to-day operations. River Towers does, in fact, employ 9 on-site staff members, including two engineers.
Fairfax County does periodic fire and limited structural inspections of high-rise and multi-family structures, but it is unclear how and why no one noticed deteriorating structural columns before yesterday’s evacuation.
UPDATE (Oct 24, 2016) – repairs could take months