CHICAGO (CBS) — A shoddy rehab project is to blame for a building collapse Thursday in the West Loop.
As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, people were forced to evacuate near the building at 1227 W. Jackson Blvd. as crews fixed the mess.READ MORE: Chicago Police Restrict Time Off For Officers Amid Battle Between City Hall, FOP Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Part of the multi-story vacant building was left leaning on the apartment complex next door after the collapse. People living in that complex were forced out.
“I’m just going to rush to my friend’s house, but I was freaking the f**k out,” said one woman, Mallica.
Mallica was on a work call when she heard a noise.
“It felt like it was strong – like an earthquake,” she said.
Then around 10:30 a.m., police and fire crews rushed to the building near Skinner Park.
“There was a Fire Department knocking on my door, and they told me to evacuate,” Mallica said. “I just ran. It was scary.”
Debris was still falling after calls came into 911. First responders closed down Jackson Boulevard into the afternoon.
City inspectors came out later, eventually telling us the collapse should never have happened.
The city Department of Buildings said the owner was gutting the building for a rehab project, but without plans or permits. The department went on to explain the construction in the basement messed up the foundation, and the building collapsed.
The owner hung up when we called him, but a man on the scene spoke for him.
“He’s a client of mine – a friend,” said Bobby Loncar. “It was no way he saw that this was happening. He was doing a proper job excavating inside and doing the proper demo.”
But again, the city told us there were no permits and no plans for a gut rehab that should not have been taking place.READ MORE: Artist Nate Baranowski Uses Chalk Art To Bring Halloween Festivity To Howard Street In Rogers Park
CBS 2 looked at records for the building owner, Mariusz Florek. The latest inspection was in 2012.
There are a number of code violations, including no permit on site.
On Thursday, the city said it will “hold the owner accountable.”
As for those evacuated, they were awaiting the next steps Thursday afternoon.
“I’m OK,” Mallica said. “I should be OK.”
Graves reached out to the apartment complex to figure out how many people were evacuated and when the could come back. There was no response as of late Thursday afternoon.
The DOB said the building and surrounding area will be secured.
Meanwhile, we have encountered owner Florek before in a report on a completely different subject – questionable tow truck practices. In a 2018 report, Rachel Holtz told former CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman that she got into an accident in the 1900 block of South Canalport Avenue – and said Florek was one of two tow truck drivers who showed up at the emergency room afterward.
He allegedly demanded to see Holtz and tried to get her approval to tow the car.
“He kind of muscled his way in there,” Kristen Mantes, Holtz’s friend, said in the 2018 report. She was visiting her in the emergency room and witnessed the confrontation with Florek.
“She’s still in a lot of pain, she’s still crying,” recalls=ed Mantes. “And then when he got told he wasn’t going to get his own way he just continued to get even more angry.”
Florek did tow Holtz’s car — she says without consent. Then, she says, he sent her to a lot where she could not find her car. Using the hide-and-seek game, he piled up $700 in storage fees on the $1,324 bill that was paid by Holtz’s insurance.MORE NEWS: City Officials, Community Leaders Hit Streets To Urge People To Get First COVID-19 Shots, Boosters, And Flu Shots
On top of all that, Florek’s tow company is “not in good standing” with the Illinois Secretary of State. He has not paid his annual fee nor filed his annual report.