Crushed Townhouses Remain Vacant

Crushed Townhouses Remain Vacant

Homeowners waiting for word on when reconstruction will commence.

When Bill and Diana Drake had a bed custom-made for their master bedroom they never dreamed that it would be smashed to pieces by a crane.

That is exactly what happened on Sept. 30 when an 18-story tower crane toppled over from its base at the Midtown Condominium project and fell onto a row of adjacent townhouses in Huntington Station. The Drakes’ town home was one of six damaged units.

“I was in Chicago, ready to board a plane,” said Diana Drake. “They told me that something had hit my house but I didn’t know anything else until I got home.”

Drake and her husband were shaken by the incident.

“It was quite a shock. First you have to get over the shock that you weren’t in it,” Diana Drake said. “Then you start thinking, what did we lose?”

The Drakes know that whatever they lost can be replaced. They are having another bed custom-built. As renters, the couple lost only the contents of the master bedroom and bathroom. Their renter’s insurance paid for the damage and they found another unit nearby in the same neighborhood.

Drake credits the quick relocation to their landlord, Eva Damelin, a Realtor with Weichert Realtors in Old Town.

“Even though she was dealing with the loss of her property, she spent the weekend getting us into another place,” Drake said. “She found us a place a hundred feet away — we were thrilled.”

DRAKE DOESN’T KNOW what is happening with the rebuilding process, but said she hasn’t seen any building going on. Damelin could not comment because of an ongoing lawsuit.

“We’re not much further ahead than we were two months ago,” said another homeowner. “We’re at a standstill, but hoping that something will happen this month.”

Drake said that the other homeowners have dispersed but returned for the block parties that were held this summer.

“It’s a very close neighborhood,” she said. “We turned down a place in Old Town to stay here.”

Drake isn’t worried about the cranes that are currently operating to complete the 369-unit condominium project.

“I feel fine,” she said. “I’m looking at a crane every day. It was a freak thing and I can’t imagine it would happen again.”

Brian Foley, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, met with the homeowners several weeks ago.

“To the best of our knowledge, they [the townhouses] will be repaired as opposed to being completely demolished,” Foley said. “The insurance companies are handling issues relating to cost.”

Foley said that they have currently issued permits for two of the six units, both of which are being reconstructed by the same contractor. It is not clear who will work on the remaining four units. He’s also not sure when construction will begin.

“That is up to the insurance companies and the contractors hired to complete the construction,” Foley said.

Foley said that all contents had been removed from the homes and while he wasn’t sure where the homeowners were living, he assumed that their insurance companies were paying for their accommodations.

Foley said that extensive inspections of the crane took place after the accident.

“It was re-certified by the original testing company as well as an additional and independent testing company. The replacement crane will go through the same rigorous certification and inspection process.”

TARA L CONNELL, regional marketing representative for Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., released a statement from Bovis:

“’At approximately 8 a.m. on Sept. 30, a tower crane operated by SMC, a concrete subcontractor to Bovis Lend Lease, at the Midtown Alexandria Station construction site where a 369-unit condominium building and a six-level above-ground parking deck are to be constructed, collapsed onto a residential development damaging six townhouses.’”

According to the statement, the tower crane’s operator was injured and discharged from a local hospital. No other injuries were reported.

Shannon Somerville, secretary-treasurer for SMC Construction, Inc., said that the crane operator, who jumped from the crane before it hit the ground, is at home and recovering nicely.

“There is an ongoing investigation and the insurance company is taking care of everybody,” Somerville said.