One of two condominium buildings dangling over the eroded edge of the Mendenhall River after record flooding Saturday now appears to be back on solid ground, and the hope is the second building will be soon, officials involved with foundation repair and restoration effort said Wednesday.
The two buildings at Riverside Condominiums, which both house six residences, are among eight structures with 18 total residences that were destroyed or condemned as uninhabitable following the flooding caused by the release of water from Suicide Basin. In addition to residences left uninhabitable, city officials estimate about two dozen more sustained significant damage of varying amounts.
While owners of some homes say they believe the erosion under their foundations appears to be too great to repair — especially if such floods occur in the future — condominium managers and contract workers who’ve been placing tons of rock fill along those two buildings since Monday expressed optimism.
“We have a lot of confidence that we can save ‘C’ building,” said Mark Kissel, a vice president of the Riverside Condominiums Homeowners Association, referring to one building with a relatively small corner of the building exposed. “And we’re hopeful that we can save ‘D’ building — at least we’re working on it.”
Both buildings had support posts dangling in open air as the flood waters washed away dozens of feet of riverbank Saturday, but erosion under the “D” building extends significantly further along the building and underneath. Nonetheless, both buildings fared better than a neighboring property where nearly all of a large house fell into the river — one of three single-family homes considered a partial or total loss by the city.
By midday Wednesday the exposed corner support post of the “C” building was resting on a pile of rock fill, as a steady procession of commercial dump trucks dumped and bulldozers pushed tons of the material into the void where the riverbank once stood.
Kissel said the association is close to asking city officials to lift the building’s condemned status to allow residents to return home. He said the “D” building will take “a longer period of time and substantial work to bring that one back to a habitable condition.”
Steve Bradford, an engineer and another vice president of the homeowners association, said the current rock fill effort is merely the first phase of restoration work planned. It’s intended for the emergency bank stabilization work the city is exempting from the normal permitting process, while longer-term work to re-extend the bank out from the buildings will require both additional regulatory work and funds.
Meanwhile, Bradford is paying attention to more than just the exposed portions of the building. Every hour during the daytime he is using a tape measure to check the size of cracks along the bases of the other side of the buildings that appeared after the flooding, suggesting the buildings might be shifting or tilting slightly downward. At 11 a.m. the crack along the “C” building was the same, while the “D” crack had expanded about 1/32 of an inch during Wednesday morning.
As for how the walls and other parts of the living spaces were faring, Bradford said that remains unknown since residents moved many of their belongings out and the buildings were condemned.
“We’re not allowing anybody in there to see because it’s too dangerous or too unstable,” he said. “So we’re gonna keep spreading the rocks and we want to spread it eventually under the edge of the building so that we can put some temporary supports, and put a long beam along this edge here and support the outside edge. And this is just to stabilize the building so we don’t lose the building.”
The next step, Bradford said, will be replacing the foundation in a way that achieves maximum protection in the event of future floods, a project outside the scope of the city’s emergency waiver.
Funding for the emergency work is currently being paid for with the association’s reserve funds, but Bradford said the intent is to seek relief funding following Gov. Mike Dunleavy declaration of the incident as a state disaster on Tuesday. City officials have issued notices telling property owners to save receipts and other records of emergency work for the purpose of applying for relief funds.
“Tell them we need a lot of money,” Bradford said. “We need millions.”
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 957-2306.