Residents and those who have been inside an 80-unit apartment building that partially collapsed in downtown Davenport on Sunday said they were not surprised by the situation because the building was in such poor shape.
(Don’t know anything about the collapse? Catch up with Ty Rushing’s excellent recap here.)
Rescued just before demolition scheduled
Lisa Brooks, a paralegal, had only lived in apartment 403 on the building’s fourth floor for a couple of months.
Current and former residents said feeling their building shake was common at The Davenport, built in 1906 and centrally located in the city’s downtown.
So Brooks slept right through the shaking Sunday, though she noted she could smell something odd.
She was awakened Memorial Day Monday when she heard onlookers yelling from outside.
“I heard people say, ‘Is anybody in the building?’ And when I went to the window, I saw two firemen on the bottom,” she said. She still didn’t know what happened and thought she could simply come down the stairs, but firefighters told her to wait, brought the ladder truck around and got Brooks out of the window.
It was hours after Davenport city officials said they thought there was no one left in the building—and just hours before the city planned to demolish what remained.
Hours after Davenport authorities announced their intent to demolish a partially collapsed building, Lisa Brooks was rescued. She told Starting Line about that experience. #davenport #quadcities #quadcitiesiowa #iowa #davenportbuildingcollapse
Davenport Fire Marshall Jim Morris said those plans changed Tuesday, noting demolition was off the table for now. But he defended the quick demolition schedule, saying the building was unstable.
“We had no indications from any of the responders that we had, any of our tools, any of the canines, at that time (of people in the building). So, at some point, we had to move forward,” Morris told a press conference open to only journalists inside the Davenport Police Department, just a block away from the building.
Morris said the city was “talking with technical rescue teams and a structural engineer to figure out the safest way to do another search.”
He also noted the city was reviewing camera footage from buildings around that one “to try and determine exactly where, what and why.”
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said that footage would “certainly” be given to investigators and “probably everybody else” at some point.
“Our hearts go out to everybody involved, especially the families of the unaccounted and the displaced,” Matson said, encouraging folks to donate to the Red Cross.
Building was long neglected, say residents
But Brooks said she thought the city—which had apparently greenlit an inspection of the building, owned by Andrew Wold of Bettendorf, just days before the collapse—should help find housing for the families who lived there and now couldn’t return.
“They shouldn’t have to be walking around homeless,” she said. “This is the United States. Do the right thing.”
Isaiah, a former resident who moved out just a month before the collapse, said there were widespread water problems and had been for a while. Starting Line agreed to only use Isiah’s first name in the story. Isaiah said the property manager he dealt with was Jamey Licandro; a website for Licandro Management was still advertising apartments for rent in The Davenport as of Tuesday.
“Mold was under my sink, hot water wouldn’t work certain mornings. I had no heat, no air,” he said.
After less than a year, he got sick of it. “Nobody ever came (to fix it). I broke my lease and I left,” he said.
The only fixes Isaiah saw for the water issues didn’t seem to last long, he said. His theory for the collapse? “Water rusted the beams and they gave out.”
And he doesn’t buy that the city didn’t know anyone else could have been in the building. His friend Branden is one of at least two people who were last known to be inside.
“It’s been all over Facebook, social media. It’s just insane that (the city) would have no clue that there were people still inside of there,” he said.
Joshua Lee Jackson has lived for years in The Dorothea Apartments a couple blocks away—also owned by Wold. He said his building is also pretty neglected, but Wold let him do repairs of his own apartment, along with others at The Davenport, in exchange for money or partial rent relief.
Jackson said he had been paid to paint over mold at The Davenport. He noted he was not a qualified painter, let alone a mold expert, but figured the paint was only masking the problem.
“I told the residents what I did,” Jackson said, saying he did so because he’d want to know if that was happening in his own building.
Was he surprised to see The Davenport collapse? “Nope. Not at all,” he said.
In fact, no one who lived there or had been inside seemed surprised it happened.
“The tenants told us the building was going to collapse,” Jennifer Smith, owner of Fourth Street Nutrition on the first floor of The Davenport, told The Des Moines Register.
Jackson even ran inside after the collapse to check on a friend, who was OK, and also noticed a smell like carbon monoxide.
He said he wanted to move, worried The Dorothea—built in 1910—could be next.
by Amie Rivers
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