Evanston Parking Garage Collapses

Nomaan Merchant

By Nomaan MerchantThe Daily Northwestern

Jeanne Tompkins was sitting in her seventh-floor condominium at 1100 Clark St. on Friday night when she felt the building shake.

The roof of an underground parking garage outside the building had collapsed, destroying the garage’s exit ramps and displacing about 55 residents.

“It felt like a bomb or an earthquake,” Tompkins said. “There were a lot of little tremors after that.”

A giant beam placed on top of the underground garage, 1718 Oak Ave., fell through the garage’s roof all the way to the basement at about 9:20 p.m. Friday, said Steve Knipstein, a spokesman for the developer Roszak/ADC. According to an Evanston press release, a smaller collapse of the garage occurred soon after police arrived at the scene, and one firefighter suffered a minor hand injury.

Alarms went off inside the building immediately after the first collapse, and firefighters were directing residents outside in about 10 minutes, Tompkins said. Residents were allowed back into their homes to collect personal belongings later before being escorted out again.

Nils Peterson, pastor of the Sojourner Covenant Church located just south of the accident, opened up his church Friday night to the crowd of displaced residents as well as to police and fire officials.

“We pulled out the Sunday refreshments and put on a pot of coffee,” Peterson said. “People just needed a place to get collected.”

Most tenants spent the night at the homes of friends and family or checked into hotel rooms paid for by Roszak/ADC.

No one will be allowed to enter the building for at least several more days, Knipstein said. Engineers and firefighters will investigate the cause of the accident and check the site for structural damage.

“Our goal is to get residents in their homes as quickly as possible, but some precautions have to be taken first,” Knipstein said.

Roszak/ADC opened the first of several planned condominium buildings at 1100 Clark St. last summer, Knipstein said. The completed project will have 256 condominiums and townhomes, according to the developer’s Web site.

The Hearn Company owns the garage, which is independent of 1100 Clark St., and a building across the street. The garage is mainly used for office parking in addition to space for condominium residents.

Since the accident occurred on a Friday night, Knipstein said, the garage was mostly empty. Most of the 40 cars trapped inside the garage belong to residents.

Tompkins, a retiree who moved to Evanston from Florida, rented a car and planned to stay at a hotel in north suburban Glenview for at least the weekend. She didn’t know when she would be able to return to her condominium.

“I got hit by Andrew, I got hit by Wilma, I got hit by Jeanne, by Katrina and after all of those hurricanes, I decided to move here, where nothing happened,” Tompkins said laughing.

Reach Nomaan Merchant at [email protected]