When city inspectors investigated a 311 building complaint at 2003 Aldrich Ave. S. on Oct. 12, they decided to shut down the building immediately.
Minneapolis building official Ken Staloch said cracks were large enough to see between floors.
“It’s literally a gap, I could easily put my hand in them,” he said. In the corridors, walls were separating from each other and the ceiling, he said.
Inspectors weren’t worried about the 1923 building falling apart, but they were worried about a building shift potentially causing a gas leak. Ignited by a spark, the worst-case scenario would be a disaster, Staloch said.
“We can’t see past the floors and the walls, we can’t see what’s going on, and we actually don’t know how serious it is,” Staloch said. “But at the same time, we need to afford some safety to these tenants.”
All residents of the 25-unit building were told to move out over the weekend. A sign on the building says the locks have been changed and the building is currently under renovation.
Some residents moved into shelter without a short-term place to stay, according to emergency shelter consultant Monica Nilsson. Rents there were $799-1,099, according to the apartment listing.
The landlord Feddersen Holdings did not respond for comment. In an October eviction filing for an Aldrich Avenue tenant who had relocated to another building, the landlord attributed the damage to nearby construction.
On the ground floor of the apartment building, Visionary Optical optician Nina Levitus said she could feel the building shake during construction next door at 2004-2018 Lyndale Ave. S. Demolition of the Theatre Garage and Steeple People property took place in late 2017 to create 113 units, retail and a corner restaurant.
“When they drive piles, you jump off your seat,” Levitus said. “…I originally thought I was going to fall into the hole.”
Workers repeatedly fixed her doorway, she said.
The owner of The Movement Minneapolis, a gym that fronts the construction site, said he’s noticed lots of shifting and cracking in his building. Staff at Walgreens pointed to cracks in the masonry that became larger.
The developer Master Properties and Benson-Orth Associates did not respond for comment. In 2014, the developer told city officials a geotechnical engineer would conduct seismographic monitoring, and they would attach instruments to surrounding buildings to monitor any vibration or movement.
One neighbor who declined to share his name said construction caused his residence to shake, and he noticed that workers installed equipment to measure vibrations. But he said 2003 Aldrich had problems before.
“It’s just a dump building,” he said. “…That building was ready to fall down well before they started construction.”
2003 Aldrich Avenue South LLC purchased the building from John Klinkner in May 2017 for roughly $3 million, according to property records.
Inspection reports provided by the city show violations that were resolved dating back to 2010 for issues including operable windows and doors, water damage, and other repairs related to the walls, ceilings, roof, plumbing and heating equipment. In the summer of 2018, an inspector ordered the owner to repair loose bricks and tuckpoint as needed on an upper portion of the exterior south wall. That order and several others were not yet fixed, according to city documents.
Poor soil conditions were part of the community conversation around developing the former Theatre Garage site at Franklin & Lyndale. In the 1870s, nearby “Lake Blaisdell” was a popular swimming hole and skating rink, according to the Hennepin County Library, once located between Harriet and Lyndale avenues and 22nd and 25th streets. As the city grew, the lake was filled and mostly forgotten, according to the library.
To accommodate soil conditions, the developer expected to use a geopier deep foundation system.
While all buildings move and have some cracks, Staloch said he’s never seen building movement to a similar degree, requiring residents to move out.
The 2003 Aldrich building is now in the owner’s hands, Staloch said, and the owner could make extensive repairs to bring the structure up to code for occupancy. Staff were told that the gas was shut off and the owner expected to winterize the building.
The tenants, meanwhile, are working to move on. Levitus of Visionary Optical decided to relocate to the Minneapolis Farmers Market on weekends, a big change after operating near Uptown for more than 25 years.
“You can’t get a pair of glasses adjusted online,” she said. “…I love what I do. I’m going to continue to do it.”