Kristen DaSilva started noticing the cracks in the floor about six months after moving into the south Minneapolis apartment last fall.
This summer, when she could see straight through to the hallway a story below her and her landlord stopped responding to her complaints, DaSilva reported the damage to the city, she said. She even rented another apartment and planned to pay rent on both through October.
"I was just feeling like something was going to happen soon," she said.
On Friday, city inspectors declared the building at 2003 Aldrich Av. S. structurally unsafe and gave its two dozen tenants 72 hours to vacate. Inspectors found visible cracks to the 27-unit apartment's brick exterior and over many of its floors, which the building's owner blamed on heavy construction work on a planned apartment complex next door that caused the ground to shift and the building to shake.
Not everyone was lucky enough to have a place to go right away. City Council President Lisa Bender, who represents the area, said she spent the weekend trying to find housing for those facing immediate displacement. All of the people she's been talking to have found housing, she said Monday afternoon.
"It's terrible," said Bender. "People came home from work Friday and found these notifications and were told they have to get out of the building by Monday."
That's what happened to Matt Stofflet, 46, who saw the notice taped to his door at 8 p.m. Friday. He was so shocked that he stood outside the building in the cold for about half an hour, pondering what to do.
"It absolutely blew my mind," said Stofflet, who found a new apartment a few blocks away. "People have known about these structural cracks for months, and we were given almost no notice. There must be a law against that."
City inspectors visited the apartment building on May 14 and cited the property with a dozen violations, according to city records. The city lists four of those as "unresolved," including problems with the foundation, roof and exterior walls. Inspector notes from June say the property construction next door may be causing some of the issues, according to the apartment manager, and that the builder is expected to fix the brickwork after completion of the project.
These deficiencies were sent to the property owner and management company in writing, said Steve Poor, director of development services for Community Planning and Economic Development in Minneapolis.
"It seems like the building owner has known there's been potential issues here for quite some time," Poor said.
Mike Feddersen, president and owner of Feddersen Holdings, which owns the Aldrich Avenue building, said he first noticed cracking in May as construction crews began excavating on the adjacent site off Lyndale Avenue S. Feddersen said he contacted officials with Master Properties Minnesota, which is developing the adjacent site, and they assured him they were monitoring the problem.
'My building is cracking'
"Then all hell broke loose" over the July 4th weekend, Feddersen said, when construction crews began heavy drilling on the site. Suddenly, tenants began to complain of shaking and cracks in their walls.
"I ran down to the site and told the foremen, 'You gotta stop construction right now because my building is cracking,' " Feddersen said. "And they just laughed at me."
The developer has plans to build Theatre Garage and Marquee Apartments, a six-story, mixed-use building with 113 apartments, retail space and a restaurant on the site at the southwest corner of Lyndale Avenue S. and W. Franklin Avenue, according to a project description. Don Gerberding, principal of Master Properties, declined to comment Monday.
In a July 13 letter to the city, attorneys for Feddersen urged the city to send an inspector and engineer to the construction site and to consider suspending work on the new apartment project.
"Some of the damage that has been caused to [the building] includes shifting and settling, halls and walls cracking, floors and bricks moving, and doors moving to the point that they cannot be opened and closed," Feddersen's attorney wrote.
Poor said he couldn't find a record of the letter in city files.
Poor visited the building Friday after a tenant called 311, and the damage was so bad they had to move tenants out. "Our concern was, if a gas line broke inside the building, that would be potentially catastrophic and life threatening," Poor said. "That's why we took the severe action that we took."
DaSilva said she recalled first seeing cracks in late 2017, after arriving in September of that year. DaSilva, a University of Minnesota student, reported the damage to her management company, but the staff told her not to worry and that it was only cosmetic, she said.
The damage got worse. By last summer, she was waking up to paint chips falling onto her bed.
"I really felt like they were not concerned with my safety whatsoever," DaSilva said.
Valerie Martinez, 39, said she has spent the past three months living in "a state of anxiety." Her second-story room had begun to tilt noticeably toward the excavation site, and the entire building would shake every time a truck went by on Franklin Avenue. Martinez became frightened of having her 17-year-old son and 2-year-old grandson visit her apartment.
When Martinez saw the vacate notice Friday, she panicked. She lacked the money for a deposit and first month's rent on a new apartment and feared she would end up homeless. Eventually, Feddersen found her a rental unit in one of its other properties nearby, but she had to pay $300 in moving expenses and missed four days of her new job as a marketing director at a local restaurant.
"That building has been unlivable for months, and they continued to collect rent month after month," she said.
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