DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – One month ago Tuesday, hundreds of lives were upended and one woman was killed when a construction crane fell onto a Deep Ellum apartment building during a storm.
Now there are questions about whether the management of Elan City Lights Apartments is using the catastrophe to its advantage to speed up progress on the new building where the crane once stood.
The 2600 block of Live Oak has been sealed off to passing traffic since the crane collapsed, supposedly for safety reasons.
Nearby businesses are cut off from customers.
But it hasn’t stopped construction crews from taking full advantage of the closed road to drive their vehicles through and even stacking building materials on the street.
A month after a fierce storm toppled the crane being used to build Elan City Lights Phase 2 onto its occupied apartment building, tenants have been forced out, leaving behind everything they couldn’t carry because their apartments were considered structurally unsafe.
Nearby Live Oak Street has also been sealed off.
So why is work still going on at the construction site where workers and their vehicles come and go as they please?
It’s a question Rudy Hetzer has.
He owns Dallas Tattoo and Arts Company directly across the street. He says he’s lost 40% of his business because customers can’t drive anywhere close to his studio.
“If anything, having a road closed for them is allowing them to work twice as fast and I believe that’s going to help their timeline and hinder ours,” said Hetzer. “Now looking out and seeing it consumed by the workers who are building this building, now it definitely frustrates me a little bit. It’s hard to stay positive and motivated when you know that you’re being suffocated.”
At the same time, former tenants want to know why they are being kept out while construction on the new building is allowed to continue.
Sunny Philippi desperately wants to get important parts of her life out of her sealed off apartment.
“I have everything in my life in that apartment,” she said. “I have my piano I have myself and my husband’s memories.”
CBS 11 contacted Greystar, the company that owns Elan City Lights, about this and got the following response:
“We understand residents’ frustration, but there continues to be a lot of work going on behind the scenes in order to safely recover their belongings. Important conditions of the plan required for worker safety, including certification by structural engineers, restoration of power in apartment units and interior corridors, and coordination with governmental authorities have largely been completed. We will provide residents with a detailed communication tomorrow, updating them on our progress and the process we will follow to safely recover and move their belongings to secure storage, where their property can be reclaimed. Certain portions of the building and entire parking structure, however, will remain inaccessible until OSHA and outside investigators have completed their investigations and the crane has been safely removed from the property. We will continue to provide residents with updates as we receive further information.”
There has been no response yet from OSHA or the Dallas City Council member David Blewett who represents this district.
For now, former tenants and surrounding business customers are being kept out of the area while it appears to be business as usual for the construction crews.
Meantime, attorneys for the family of Kiersten Smith, the tenant who died in the crane collapse, released the following statement on its investigation so far:
“We are working with OSHA to conduct our own investigation on behalf of Kiersten’s family to find out why this senseless tragedy occurred.
“Claims made by Bigge Crane and Rigging Company that ‘extreme local wind conditions caused this crane accident’ are entirely unsupported by the evidence we have gathered to-date, as the crane was supposed to withstand winds in excess of what was reported in that area. It is also completely inappropriate for Bigge to draw conclusions regarding an investigation that it is the subject of, while the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) still remains on site. As news reports have noted, OSHA has cited Bigge with 17 safety violations in the last decade.”
Jonathan H. Cox and Troy J. Pradia of The Cox Pradia Law Firm, and Muhammad S. Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz