CHICAGO — The building in the city’s Austin neighborhood that exploded, injuring eight people, failed multiple inspections over the last dozen years. Still, city officials say none of the violations found caused Tuesday’s damage.
Roman Viere and his family have owned the 35-unit apartment building at Central and West End for more than 20 years. Now he’s working amid the debris to find new places for his residents to stay.
“It’s a sight that you would see on the world news from Ukraine right, it’s just devastating,” Viere said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to everybody. We just want to make sure that everybody is taken care of in this challenging time.”
As investigators search for the cause of the destruction, the city’s Department of Buildings says previous violations their inspectors found would not have contributed to an explosion or the structural failure of the building.
City records show the building failed all 12 inspections since 2010. The latest inspection from 2020 lists six violations. But the city says a follow-up inspection found all violations cited in the case had been corrected. The owners were ordered to address minor issues – like a cracked sidewalk and bubbling paint.
“We do address our violations in a timely manner,” Viere said.
The multistory apartment building owner says his own team inspects each unit a couple of times a year, with the most recent inspection occurring last Tuesday, most recently, Sept. 13.
“The unit where they believe the source of the explosion was, we did gain access to that unit,” Viere said. “We did change the batteries in the smoke detector.”
He says at that time of maintenance, nothing inside gave his team any hint that an explosion would occur one week later.