Officials: Washington Towers Rehab Underway, Residents Housed
Officials say they expect the building to be habitable within a month.
The Washington Towers apartment complex, which sent residents scrambling when it was condemned late last week after months of code violations, is undergoing a complete rehabilitation that should have the buildings habitable by June or July.
That's according to Whitemarsh Township officials who spoke at Thursday's monthly Board of Supervisors meeting.
"The remediation work is progressing as quickly as possible," said township engineer Jim Sullivan of the apartments, located at 491 S. Bethlehem Pike in Fort Washington. "Hallways are being repaired, the floors are now nice and strong, and there were issues with walls."
Sullivan said that members of the code department and Fire Marshal's office are inspecting both of the complex's buildings every day to ensure that the two contractors, hired by the apartment's management, are working up to code.
As previously reported by Patch, the building reportedly faced dozens of code violations dealing with fire safety and structural issues, as well as health concerns such as bed bug infestations.
Sullivan said that each room was being inspected to make sure all such violations have been rectified.
"There's been a punch list generated for every apartment, and we're going apartment by apartment to look for issues of fire safety, life safety, and structural problems," Sullivan said.
Officials at the meeting also stated that the building had racked up nearly 200 violations over the past several months until inspectors finally condemned the apartment complex last week.
"Our professional staff had met with us late in the week and informed us that the buildings had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe to inhabit," said chairman Robert Hart. "We surely didn't want any tragedy to occur, and the reports that we received made us feel that something could happen at any time."
Impact on residents
Patch interviewed multiple residents as they were forced to move from the building, and also took reader comments online. Several residents stated that they were upset to be given only 48 hours notice, and believed it would not have happened to a more affluent population. Hart attempted to address some of these concerns.
"We were very sensitive to the fact that many of these residents had nowhere to go on short notice, and it was going to be difficult for everyone involved," Hart said, adding that he had an emergency meeting with the building's owner, Bilal Mian. "We were extremely direct in demanding that the owner step up and make arrangements for these residents to have a place to live, and to prepare and provide lodging for any residents that needed it."
Hart says that ownership acted that night to secure at least two-dozen rooms in a local hotel, along with housing at other properties in their ownership. Washington Towers has approximately 80 apartment units, but it's unclear how many were occupied and how many families needed temporary residence.
"I will say that their landlord responded very quickly and in a very positive manner," Hart said.
Hart said that the ownership then brought in the two contractors to make repairs, who have "attacked it aggressively."
Township staff said they expect the building to be re-opened by mid-July at the latest, but likely considerably earlier.
Court records show that Mian and his representation are still due in court on May 30, 2012 for a summary citation regarding violations of building code. Patch previously reached out to Bensalem-based defense attorney Christopher Steward, Esq., for comment, but did not receive a return call.
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