Restoration of fire-damaged Prospect Heights condos being planned

 
 
Updated 8/17/2018 4:47 PM
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  • Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable.

      Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable.

      Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable.

      Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable.

      Three connected buildings of the River Trails condominium complex in Prospect Heights were severely damaged by a July 18 fire, while a fourth also remains uninhabitable. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Flowers grow in pots on the porch of a unit destroyed in a July 18 fire at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights Friday.

      Flowers grow in pots on the porch of a unit destroyed in a July 18 fire at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights Friday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

A month after the massive fire that severely damaged three connected condo buildings in Prospect Heights and also displaced residents from a fourth, some aspects of the restoration process have come into focus but not a specific time frame.

The River Trails Condominium complex's homeowners association has hired Miner & East Inc. of Addison to serve as restoration project manager for the 96-unit development from among five companies interviewed, said Dan Peterson, Prospect Heights building and development director.

Though one of the four connected buildings affected by the July 18 blaze had been left structurally intact, its residents as displaced as all the rest because its utilities were based in one of the ruined buildings, Peterson said.

Officials are evaluating what it would take to separate that building and make its utilities self-contained for now so its residents could return. One of the problems caused by the elimination of the utilities is that air was no longer circulating, causing mold to form, Peterson said. Professionals in protective gear have been needed to remove the furniture and other items its residents will need in their temporary accommodations.

A rebuild of the damaged buildings will have to take into account new codes and standards, from a requirement for fire sprinklers to a higher ground elevation for a flood plain mapped by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Peterson said. But that doesn't mean the restored buildings wouldn't match the rest of the complex in appearance.

"They can design them to that look," Peterson said. "In time, people wouldn't even notice the elevation difference."

Meanwhile, Prospect Heights Police Chief Al Steffen's department and its social workers are making sure none of the displaced residents are falling through the cracks as well as that all relief efforts remain coordinated.

"There's so many places that want to help," Steffen said. "We have to make sure we're all pointed in the right direction."

The displaced residents have been issued fire-victim ID cards to help them get discounts and other assistance. Among the help that's been provided are $11,000 worth of gift cards and donations of school supplies.

Though the residents have largely moved on from such temporary accommodations as hotels and churches to more permanent arrangements, affected students have started the new school year at their normal schools even if their current lodgings are farther away, Steffen said.

The city is learning how from the expertise of other agencies and organizations how best to coordinate all the relief efforts.

"Prospect Heights has never encountered anything like this," Steffen said. "I've been here for 29 years."

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