Residents of a south Minneapolis apartment building will be out of their units for a least a couple of days after part of its brick facade fell to the ground Tuesday night.
The building is owned by Stephen Frenz, one of the city’s biggest landlords. The city’s regulatory services division is seeking to revoke his license on the building and about 60 other apartment buildings because of his failure to disclose that Spiros Zorbalas, a banned landlord in Minneapolis, retains a financial interest in Frenz’s properties.
Authorities were called to the three-story building on the 600 block of E. 16th Street around 11:45 p.m. after a 100- to 120-square-foot section of the facade fell and hit a balcony in the back and knocked down a power mast, said Minneapolis Fire Department spokesman Bryan Tyner.
Residents were evacuated, and the Red Cross said it is helping 15 residents who were displaced.
The collapse is under investigation.
The city’s inspections department issued an order on Wednesday, stating the building was “unsafe” and requiring that repairs be completed by Sept. 7.
A housing inspector wrote that there are hazardous conditions at the building site “due to brick facade failure and collapse at south side of structure,” which includes “displacement of several courses of brick, pulled down electrical mast, and damaged rear balconies.”
The building will remain vacated until authorities deem it safe, which includes removing hazardous loose material, and stabilization of the remaining face while repair work is underway, the inspections order said.
The building was cited for repeated violations in 2007, 2008 and 2010, but only one violation is listed after that, a 2013 citation for a problem of insects and vermin. It was promptly resolved, according to inspections records.
Frenz bought a large number of properties from Zorbalas in 2012, after the City Council stripped Zorbalas of all his rental licenses under an ordinance that states that any landlord who has his rental licenses revoked for two properties loses all his rental licenses for five years. The purpose of the ordinance was to get rid of problem landlords who have repeated violations.
In a housing court case in 2016, pro bono attorneys for a group of tenants uncovered evidence that Zorbalas still had an ownership interest in Frenz’s properties. The city’s regulatory services division did its own investigation, came to the same conclusion, and has announced a plan to revoke all of Frenz’s licenses.
The case will go before an administrative court next month, and if the revocation is approved, the City Council will vote on whether to revoke Frenz’s licenses in Minneapolis.
Frenz also faces a class-action suit filed against him on behalf of all his tenants, which could number over 1,000. The suit was recently certified by Hennepin District Court, although most class action cases are settled before trial.