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Madison House engineer weighs in on building's safety

'None of these conditions (are) life-safety risk'
A 19-story apartment tower, beige in color, checkered with windows and balconies, sits behind a line of trees and in front of a partly cloudy sky.
Posted at 7:15 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 21:11:42-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati building inspectors set a Sept. 30 deadline for the Madison House condominium tower to repair structural damage to a foundation wall that the building’s long-time consulting engineer described as its “highest priority” in a letter to city officials.

The disclosures, which came from a public record request by WCPO 9 I-Team, indicate the building’s repairs are being treated with more urgency than previously indicated in public statements about the matter.

Next month’s deadline is the first of several set by Art Dahlberg, director of Cincinnati’s department of buildings and inspections, in an Aug. 19 letter to Michael Patterson, principal of SRES Inc., a structural engineering firm that has managed the building’s upkeep for more than a decade.

The Madison House also must complete “structural condition studies” of a three-story parking garage and “interior structural elements” by Oct. 15 and repair spalled concrete on a garage ramp by Dec. 31, according to the letter.

“I’m really happy that the city of Cincinnati has done what they’ve done,” said Aerin Shaw, one of three Madison House residents who raised safety concerns about the building. “They really have pointed out the gravity of the situation.”

Another resident, Edgar Ragouzis, wants the city to be more aggressive.

“The attorney general probably needs to be called in, because the city is not doing anything,” Ragouzis said.

Dahlberg’s letter follows weeks of complaints by Madison House owners about crumbling concrete, exposed rebar and balcony leaks that left some wondering whether the Hyde Park structure is safe.

The owners have been talking to the WCPO 9 I-Team because they were disturbed by similarities between the damage in their building and the collapsed Champlain Towers South structure in Surfside, Florida.

RELATED: Resident fears Hyde Park tower will be 'just like Surfside.'

Patterson could not be reached for comment, but his Aug. 8 letter to the city addressed residents’ safety concerns directly.

“It is my professional opinion that none of these conditions constitute an emergency situation or a life-safety risk,” Patterson wrote. “And none of them are indicative of more widespread structural deterioration.”

But Patterson also told city officials that the location of concrete damage in a basement storage room is one factor making it “the highest priority of all known concrete repair needs at the building.”

“The deteriorated area is within approximately three feet of where one of the north end shear walls bear into the foundation wall,” Patterson wrote. “The foundation walls are important structural elements and receive the vertical (gravity) loads and lateral (wind, etc) loads from the shear walls and transfer them to the foundation system and the ground.”

Patterson wrote that the foundation wall was damaged “by corroding reinforcing steel within the wall, initiated by leaking from the exterior plaza directly above.” The leakage was likely caused by the “localized failure” of a waterproofing system that dates back to the building’s 1961 construction, Patterson added. “We may, based on additional investigation work, recommend its complete removal and replacement.”

Ragouzis and Shaw would like the Madison House board of managers to hire an independent consultant to review Patterson’s recommendations for the building. But some Madison House residents just want the controversy to be over.

“I don’t have any concerns about the building,” said Carol Perkins, who lives next door to Ragouzis. “I think what’s happening is par for the course with any older building.”

Perkins would like to sell her unit but worries she’ll be unable to find a buyer.

“I hope that things can get straightened out amicably and we can all go back to peaceful life here at the Madison House,” she said.