February 6, 2004

Residents decide to repair charred building

Residents of the Hyde Park apartment building that was recently gutted by fire have decided to rebuild the charred structure, while people have started to move back into the inhabitable units.

Six units were completely destroyed by the fire, according to Nancy Goldstucker, who lives in one of the two undamaged wings of the apartment complex. Fortunately, there were no human casualties, although one resident's cat and two pet fish died in the blaze, said Goldstucker.

Police did not suspect arson.

As reported in the Maroon on February 3, six units of the condominium complex at 5305 South Woodlawn Avenue were destroyed after a fire that started in one resident's apartment early Saturday morning spread rapidly and consumed one of the three buildings of the complex before firefighters could quench the blaze.

Goldstucker said she and other residents whose units are inhabitable were allowed to start moving back into their apartments this afternoon. However, even those apartments that can still be lived in may need repairs, she said.

"There were nine units that were pretty much unscathed, but they have different levels of smoke damage. There are three units that have different levels of water damage because of the water that was used to prevent the fire from jumping the firewall. And then there were the six units that were destroyed," she said.

The condominium association met on Monday evening to discuss plans for reconstruction and renovation. According to Goldstucker, the condo owners decided to try to rebuild rather than to tear the structure down. "The whole picture on the horizon on Monday was that we were going to rebuild, but that could change," she said.

The condo owners are in the preliminary stages of getting the damage appraised for insurance purposes, and the entire process of appraisals, rebuilding, and renovating could take as long as a year, Goldstucker said.

Goldstucker also said that she has been surprised at how difficult it has been to recover from the fire. "For the first couple of days, I was just so happy that I got out alive," she said. "But my biggest surprise is how bad the aftermath is, how hard it is to go pick up your life again and go through all the insurance and paperwork."

"You say to yourself, ‘Oh my God, I have to call the insurance company, and I have to go call a lawyer,' and going back to my apartment and seeing water dripping down my dining room walls didn't make me happy either," she said. "This is kind of the never-ending story."

Goldstucker also said that the condominium community has held together very well in dealing with the disaster, and she said that she feels heartbroken for her friends who lost their homes. "A third of our community is gone right now, and I feel like it's something we're never going to get back again."

At least three University of Chicago staff members reside in the condominium complex, Goldstucker said.