Many High-Rise Residents Suffering In Spring Heat

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago has had eight days of record warmth, and it’s caused some residents of Presidential Towers in the West Loop to wonder why the air conditioning isn’t on.

“I was not able to sleep because of the heat, and I was sweating in my bed,” said Amulya Shrama, who lives on the 42nd floor of Presidential Towers, at 555 W. Madison St.

After enduring days of heat, he finally asked the management what was going on with the lack of air conditioning.

“Please, please, please turn on the air conditioning. And no response,” he told WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

The general manager of Presidential Towers sent residents a letter, which advised them to keep blinds closed during the day and indicated there would be no air conditioning until June 1 – ending with the line, “Summer is just around the corner and we are enjoying this brief preview of why it is so great to live in downtown Chicago.”

As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, the record warmth in March poses a big question for owners of high-rise buildings, because switching between heat and air conditioning is an expensive and labor-intensive process. Switching to air conditioning now might mean having to switch back to heat soon if the weather turns cold again.

Presidential Towers’ decision not to turn on A/C literally has left residents hot under the collar. They said building management made the wrong choice.

The windows at Presidential Towers offer beautiful views of the city, but with temps in the low to mid 80s for the past week, the windows have helped turn up the heat inside.

On the side of the building facing the sun Wednesday afternoon, the thermostat read 92 degrees.

Residents have bought fans, stocked up on cold water, or simply headed for the door.

“Everyone is in the same boat. I go to the lobby, a lot of residents are there, because their units are so hot,” Shrama said.

The Western view just makes it worse inside, delivering hot rays of sun all day. The windows won’t open more than 6 inches, so without A/C, they can’t get a lot of air moving.

“Sometimes I just stay here (with his head above the open window) and get the air,” Shrama said. If he doesn’t stand right next to the window, Shrama said he can’t feel the air moving.

“I tried to contact management with Tweets and Facebook messages, but they said that they decided to keep it this way until June 1,” Shrama said. “They might change after this, but as of today, their decision is to keep it this way till June 1.”

Management at Presidential Towers did not return calls for comment, but Shrama said they told residents switching off the heat and turning on the AC is a long, labor-intensive process.

SOT We are living in 21st center. If it takes 10 days to switch than it’s not use

Over at Flair Tower, a smaller boutique apartment building located at 222 W. Erie St. in the River North neighborhood, building owners listened to residents’ complaints, pulled out the patio furniture, and made the switch from heat to A/C.

But, unlike a lot of older high-occupancy buildings, they say still have the ability to offer heat – at a cost.

“There are some properties that have one or the other. We just are lucky that we have that second option to be able to provide heat all year-round,” said Flair Tower manager Colleen Murphy.

  • G-Lep

    Sorry — can’t relate. I’m not urbane and sophisticated enough to live in a high-rise.

  • Chicago Heat

    The only reason I’ll be leaving my apartment building this year. A good view is simply not worth sweating to death in your own apartment.

    • G-Lep

      If you’ve “sweat to death,” how were you able to comment? Are you posting from beyond the grave?!

    • Liela

      I agree! I have horrible allergies and asthma too so that makes it even worse! I can’t stand waking up sweating so much and changing the sheets constantly.

  • zatso

    Is this the place that gets subsidized rent relief?

    • G-Lep

      When they were built in ’86, a certain number of apartments had to be set aside for Section 8 (if I recall correctly). Don’t know if that still applies. The complex has changed hands at least once (in ’07).

  • PT resident

    temperature is very high inside the apartment which are on higher floor, management should shift their office to higher floor and work at least a day from their next day we all will get cool air

  • tony branden

    It should be noted the management offices at Presidential Towers have been air conditioning. Even the hallways and lobbies are cooler then the apartments.

    And for management to say by law they are no required to have the air conditioning on til June 1st….shame on them

    • PT Residents

      Yes I agree with you Tony

  • A Letter to The Residents

    I don’t want to dramatize this whole situation; but the report was spot on. It is very hot in our apartment with all windows open and fans running. We have a dog that lives with us its unfortunate that he deals with the heat all day.

    Here is a letter from the GM.

    Dear Residents,

    Over the past week we have experienced temperatures in downtown Chicago well above seasonal norms and we have received many requests for air conditioning. My last communication was very light hearted when we were in day two of these “unseasonable temperatures”. We have now seen 7 days with temperatures above 80 degrees with evening temperatures in the 40’s – 50’s. Noting that these past 2 days have been the warmest only dropping into the mid to low 60’s. So why have we not turned on the air conditioning and what is our plan moving forward?

    Let me address the first question as to why we have not switched to air thus far. Our system is what is known as a “two pipe” system which cannot run heat and air conditioning simultaneously. The transition from one to the other can take 24–48 hours. You may have also heard mention of the Chicago’s Heat Ordinance, which does require that we provide heat in order for our residents to maintain a temperature above 66 degrees until June 1st. Finally, there is a great deal of preventative maintenance that goes into getting a system of our size ready for the cooling season that had not yet been completed. Failure to transition our system properly can cause severe damage and lead to prolonged outages.

    At the start of this heat spell we were seeing low temperatures in the evenings and that combined with how uncommon this weather was for March led us to believe we would need to switch back to heat in the very near future. The location of your apartment also plays a role in how much direct sun your apartment is getting, which is to say that a low floor shaded apartment will be considerably cooler in the evening than a high floor apartment with lots of afternoon sunlight.

    What is the plan moving forward? This coming weeks forecast is currently calling for much cooler temperatures with afternoon temperatures ranging from 54-75 degrees and evening temperatures from 41 to 53 degrees. We currently have a mechanical company working with our Chief Engineers prepping our system and doing seasonal preventative maintenance. We are watching the 10 day forecast very closely and while forecasts are not an exact science we will switch over for any period that will consistently enable our residents to maintain temperatures above 66 degrees.

    My sincere apologies for any discomfort you experienced this past week and know that we are evaluating our systems and procedures constantly to ensure that you are able to enjoy your apartment to the fullest. If you have further questions or concerns please feel free to contact our office.

    David Scharfenberg

    General Manager

    • Liela

      Thnks for posting that! It was just on CBS news and you are right it was spot on. And they did change the air to heat then back to air and back to heat at the end of September begining of October in 2011 and same with 2010. And they did not wait until June 1 to turn the air on in 2011, it was turned on in May due to the crazy up and down temperatures. I am seriously thinking about moving when my lease is up this summer. They don’t care about us, the tenants, they only care about this “long process” to turn the air on, which is nonsense, my much older office building in the loop, which has at least 50 years on PT, has had the air on.

      • PT Residents

        I agree .. with you this is a ridiculous place

  • The Original Letter to The Residents

    Here is the original email; sent on March 15.

    Dear Residents:

    Can you believe this weather we are having? Even if for a short period these Spring and Summer like temperatures have been quite a treat. How long will it last? That is for the weather man to predict and mother-nature to decide. I’d recommend keeping the winter coat in the closet, but not packing it away just yet.

    With these unseasonably warm temperatures we have had some residents inquiring about air conditioning. The answer is not just yet. Presidential Towers runs a centralized heating and air conditioning unit which must be manually changed over once per year from heat to air conditioning and vice versa in late fall. The process is labor intensive and requires a great deal of preparation to be ready for the switch over later this season. At present, we are mandated by the City of Chicago Heat Ordinance to maintain temperatures above 66 degrees until June 1st. During unseasonably warm days you will find the system will beswitched to a“fan mode” which is neither heat nor air conditioning and simply helps circulates the air flow in the community, while maintaining the ability to quickly switch back to heating when temperatures drop.

    How do you keep your apartment cool throughout the day? Depending on the location of your apartment, the sun will hit during different times of day and can raise the temperature far beyond outside temperatures. We strongly recommend if you are leaving for the day that your blinds are down and closed until you return in the evening. Evening temperatures do drop and you can quickly lower the temperature of your apartment by opening the windows. Use of a fan can also help to circulate the air and cool the room much quicker.

    Summer is just around the corner and we are enjoying this brief preview of why it is so great to live in downtown Chicago. In coming months please stay tuned for an exciting announcement regarding a new outdoor space currently being designed for our community. Thank you for being part of the Presidential Towers Community.

    At your service,

    David Scharfenberg
    General Manager – Presidential Towers

    • PT resident

      Someone didn’t fully understand their physics lesson of the stack effect and reverse stack effect.

      In case anyone one is wondering which effects applies, it is the reverse stack effect.

      Even though the temperatures become lower in the evening, the hotter air continues to rise. The 20th floor will obviously be cooler than the 30th floor at an earlier time before the 30th floor cools to the same temperature of the 20th floor. Meanwhile this process continues on with the proceeding floors which can take many hours. The cooler air continuing to sink down followed by the hotter air rising up.

      Then there is the pressure factor. Air moves from high pressure to low pressure. Higher floors will have high air pressure because of higher temperatures. Cooler air has a lower pressure than hotter air. Let’s put it all together with temperature & pressure and get to a bottom line point. Whatever hot air that gets cooled goes right down the elevator shaft (I hear it when I struggle to open my door due to air pressure during the hotter outside temperatures). So the cooled air is replaced by more hot air!


  • PT Residents

    How can Presidential Towers not listen to the residents they have to .. they need to .. they must … we pay rent thats why they get salaries

  • PT resident

    I live on the 40th floor of one of the towers. I complained multiple times. It was absolute misery. I kept thinking to myself as my water bottle pressurized multiple times, this is how old people & pets die in high-rises during heat waves. I feel so bad for people’s children because there are a few that live on my floor, too. I can’t believe that it took residents going to the news for the property manager to actually turn on air conditioning when we were suffering in 80+ degree temperatures for over a week. This is just as bad as not supplying heat to us during freezing weather!!!

  • PT resident

    we GOT The air Conditioning …. Yeah thanks to CBS News for making them realize that they are not doing good with the residents

    Dear Residents,

    We now have air conditioning running in Towers 1, 2, and 3. Our engineers are working in Tower 4 and we anticipate having that Tower active within the next few hours. We will stay in this mode barring any drastic drops in temperature. Thank you for being part of our community and our sincere apologies for the delay in making this happen.


    David Scharfenberg

    General Manager

    Presidential Towers

  • thisplacesucks

    Thia place sucks!!! I’m out next month….YAyyyyy!

    • thisplacesucks


  • Turned in our notice to vacate today!

    We too endured temperatures reaching over 90 degrees in our apartment on the 34th floor of tower 4. The GM and others involved in this decision should be ashamed of themselves. I had heard that there was an email floating around, but did not want to see it after hearing the blame placed on the city ordinance. SELFISH! I completely agree with a comment above regarding pets, especially since Tower 4 is the only pet tower and experienced a 20 degree increase in temperature from the main lobby. THANK YOU to whomever reported this to the local news, and THANK YOU CBS for covering our story! We can finally breathe! We are still OUT OF HERE in 60 days. We refuse to rent in a place where our community’s well being–health AND safety are not a priority.

  • Making the Most of Chicago’s Unusually Early Spring |

    […] temperatures for the beginning of March. And while local news has already rolled out the mandatory “My Meanie Property Manager Won’t Turn on the A/C” stories, I am absolutely giddy with excitement at the prospect trading the freezing, miserable […]

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