The Village of Riverside last Friday filed a civil complaint in the Cook County Circuit Court against the management and owners of the Tower Building, a 78-year-old commercial/apartment at the corner of Forest and East Avenues in downtown Riverside.
The Tudor-revival style Tower Building is a Riverside landmark, receiving that designation from the village’s board of trustees in 1993.
In the complaint, the village seeks to force the owner of the building and its management company, Reliable Management, to clean up a portion of the building that is described as “grossly unsanitary” and “presents a danger to the health, safety and welfare of other occupants of the property … and to any members of the public who may visit the property.”
The owner of the Tower Building is listed in Cook County records as a real estate trust. According to records obtained from the Illinois Secretary of State, the president of Reliable Management, which acts as the owner’s agent, is Carol Kafka while the secretary is listed as Michael Kafka.
Colin Lawler, an attorney representing Reliable Management, declined to comment on the suit, saying he wasn’t aware of his client being served with a complaint.
Although the village has threatened to fine the property owners $750 per day for each of two alleged violations of village codes, Village Attorney Dean Krone said that what Riverside really wants is cooperation from the property owners.
“What the village is really interested in is not collecting money from the property owner,” Krone said. “What we really intend is to make sure the property is cleaned and sanitized appropriately as quick as is practical.”
In the meantime, a longtime tenant of the building, Kathleen Snyder, is terminating her lease at 25 Forest Ave., which has been home to Arcade Antiques for over 20 years, when the lease expires on March 31.
Arcade Antiques has been shuttered since a July 10, 2005 incident that is at the root of the village’s lawsuit against the building’s owners and managers.
On that date, according to a Riverside Fire Department report, a broken toilet in an apartment above Arcade Antiques flooded the store with water, sewage and human feces. When fire department personnel accessed the business, they reported water pouring from the drop-ceiling onto the floor and antique-filled counters of the store.
However, representatives from Reliable Management and a plumber used by the management company allegedly refused to respond to the scene.
As a result, the village believes that water continued to leak from the drop-ceiling of the store for three days after the original incident and that the ceiling of the store remained “visibly wet for two weeks after the flooding incident.”
Snyder was out of town at the time of the July 10 incident. When she returned, Snyder reported a “moldy smell” in the shop, and in mid-August the village retained the services of an industrial hygiene, safety and environmental consultant to perform a mold assessment.
The report from Hygieneering Inc. of Willowbrook stated that there was a “noticeable musty odor” in the shop. And while they did not report mold in the main area of the shop, the firm noted they were unable to access areas that would likely have been most affected by the flooding?”above the drop-ceiling and behind large wooden storage units along the south wall of the shop.
Hygieneering recommended that the site be cleaned according to guidelines set out by the Environmental Protection Agency. On Aug. 30, Robert Caraher, the Village of Riverside’s chief building inspector asked Reliable Management to voluntarily close the space and provide him with a remediation plan.
Reliable Management responded by hiring its own environmental consultant, Jensen Environmental Management. According to a letter from Lawler to Caraher, dated Sept. 13, 2005, Jensen found air samples within the shop to be “totally normal.”
Lawler also pointed to a clause in Snyder’s lease that, he said, relieved Reliable Management of any liability in connection with the July 10 flood. That position was dismissed by the Village of Riverside’s attorney as unenforceable.
“[The clause] cannot shield your client in this situation, because it is clearly invalid and unenforceable as against public policy under the Landlord and Tenant Act,” wrote attorney Sharon Eiseman on Nov. 17, 2005.
Since that time, according to the lawsuit, Reliable Management “has not taken any steps to arrange for the inspection, replacement, cleaning or other remediation … by a licensed industrial hygienist or other qualified professional.”
On Jan. 20, 2006, Reliable Management served Snyder with an eviction notice, claiming she hadn’t provided access to the premises. After responding that she had no intention of renewing her lease after March 31, that eviction notice has apparently been lifted.
Meanwhile, Arcade Antiques is in the process of moving out of the space. Paint still peels from the repainted drop-ceiling, and some moisture was evident on a wall in a storage area as late as two weeks ago.
When the business checks out for good, it will be the third business in the building to leave since the beginning of the year. Fleur de Lis Antiques at the far western end of the building closed shop after two years in the Tower Building. J.P. Antiques, on East Avenue, adjacent to Arcade Antiques, closed last month after 18 years in the building.
Owner Joe Pilch, showed pictures of his business after a previous water leak caused part of the business’ plaster ceiling to fall in.
“They said any damage that’s done is my problem,” Pilch said. “They tell me to call my insurance company.”
Failing water pipes have also been a problem at the Blue Parrot Tearoom at 31 Forest Ave. Just after Christmas, the business’ owner alerted the village to a broken or cracked pipe in the kitchen wall, which flooded part of the business.
“I get anxiety-ridden by it,” said Blue Parrot owner Mario Mongello. “I don’t want anyone getting hurt or anything falling on anyone.”