Repairs made to Pikesville building

Condo residents return as crews work on columns

October 25, 2006|By Laura Barnhardt and Nick Shields | Laura Barnhardt and Nick Shields,sun reporters

The residents of a Pikesville condominium complex that was evacuated Monday were allowed to return to their homes last night, after additional steel supports were installed to prevent the 43-year-old building from collapsing.

Residents returned to the building about 8:50 p.m. after crews worked to shore up the structure and compensate for deteriorating columns that were discovered on Monday afternoon.

Harriet Young had stayed with her daughter in White Marsh. "I couldn't wait to come home," she said.

Her daughter told her that she had "never seen anybody run so fast to go home."

A column had warped about four inches, causing the building to move slightly, said Michael Klein, one of the owners of WP&M Real Estate Group, an Owings Mills property management company that oversees daily operations at the 140-unit complex.

"The steel gave out and the whole beam folded and that caused the building to shift," Klein said.

Several other columns - described as 20 feet tall, made of steel and covered in concrete - showed signs of deterioration at their bases, he said.

Raya Kozvch, owner of Raya's Beauty Salon on the first floor of the condominium building, said the disruption cost her business yesterday and that construction could continue to hurt her.

"With bills coming, I will not be able to handle this," she said.

The five-story brick condominiums at 130 Slade Ave. were built in two sections, with a four-story middle section connecting the two larger buildings. Cars can drive beneath the middle section and occasionally have struck the columns, which serve as part of the building's support system, according to Klein.

A condo owner reported hearing a loud popping sound and then seeing a crack in the fa?ade near a window Monday. Klein said they initially thought a truck had hit one of the columns, which might have caused strong enough reverberations to cause the 3-foot crack nearby.

When engineers came to inspect the problem, they could find no evidence that a vehicle had hit one of the columns, according to Klein and Baltimore County emergency authorities.

Today's building standards are better than they were in 1962 when the complex was built, Klein said.

"The steel would be up on concrete so moisture and salt would not directly be hitting the steel like this," he said.

Donald W. Vannoy, a civil engineering professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, called problems with steel supports "very uncommon."

"Usually, a problem in the supports will occur in the first year of construction," when the building is subjected to its first tests from the weight of the building, Vannoy said. "If something happens after that, it's a design or material defect."

Vannoy said allowing steel to be exposed to water begins the corrosion process.

Klein said a more permanent support system would be put in place, but not for at least a month.

Officials from the building complex welcomed the residents as they returned. A wooden ramp had been constructed on a side entrance to the building, lit by bright lights hung on the wooden railing.

"Where's the band?" joked Sylvia Baum, a 37-year resident of the building.

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