Fire-ravaged condo buildings being demolished in Prospect Heights
Remains of condominium buildings heavily damaged by fire three months ago in Prospect Heights are being demolished to clear land for new construction and the expected return of displaced residents next year.
"In the end, this is going to be a good-news story," River Trails condominium complex board President Bob Levin said. "It's going to be rebuilt. It's going to look as good or better than before."
About $10 million in damage to four connected buildings with 96 units and the contents in them was caused by the July 18 fire at River Trails, according to a Prospect Heights Fire Department report. One firefighter and two civilians suffered minor injuries.
Three of the buildings were left smoldering, while the fourth had significant water and smoke damage after scores of firefighters from across the area battled the blaze for hours. Investigators said a juvenile accidentally started the fire, but no charges were filed.
With necessary permits in hand and insurance claims settled, River Trails' comeback is underway with the demolition work that began this week on three of the structures. Levin said the fourth, least-damaged building will be renovated.
None of the condos had sprinkler systems when the massive fire occurred. While three of the new buildings will have sprinklers and firewalls as required under current codes, it has yet to be determined if such will be the case for the renovated structure where previous construction standards still may apply, Prospect Heights officials said.
Levin said it's hoped that residents can move into the renovated condo units in July. He said the three new buildings should be ready for occupancy late next year.
Prospect Heights' building and development director, Dan Peterson, said the new buildings and the renovated structure will financially benefit others at the complex because the River Trails condo association will remain intact with the same number of units.
Miner & East Inc. of Addison was hired by the condo association to serve as restoration project manager. Peterson credited Miner & East for its speed in acquiring permits from several agencies for the River Trails work including Cook County, Prospect Heights, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency and FEMA.
"We don't want to lose any of the folks that call Prospect Heights home," Peterson said.
Mayor Nick Helmer said the city is awaiting construction plans for the new condos and the renovated building. The structures are expected to look similar to the existing River Trails buildings.
Levin did not have an estimated construction tab but said all the work will be paid by the condo association's insurer, minus a $10,000 deductible.
Roughly 50 fire departments and nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene before the blaze was extinguished. Prospect Heights Fire Chief Drew Smith said the response was among the largest in the region since the 1985 fire that devastated Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights.