Almost two months after an electrical fire rendered Patten Towers temporarily uninhabitable, state housing officials say repairs are on track - but inspectors will be back.
Terry Malone, program compliance liaison for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, said after a cursory inspection Thursday that building owner PK Management has made strides upgrading windows and other improvements. But Malone said there still is much to do in the 11-story downtown Section 8 public housing project.
The building's 241 elderly or disabled residents were evacuated May 28 and spent a month in shelters and hotels while repairs were made to the building's electrical system. PK Management replaced an electrical switchgear in the basement and supplied city inspectors with plans to replace or repair the electrical and structural systems.
PK Management has pledged to spend $1.75 million restoring the building. So far, it has replaced 652 windows out of the 1,000 it plans to upgrade. But those upgrades are part of a low-income housing tax credit agreement from 2005 and began before the fire, Malone said. They are separate from general living-condition improvements Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said he will require after the city granted a conditional occupancy permit for the building last month.
Thursday's visit was far from a full inspection.
Malone and THDA Public Affairs Director Patricia Smith toured the common areas and two apartments.
From what they saw, the building looked to be in good shape, they said.
PK Management has a contract with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, administered through the state.
Patten Towers is due for a full THDA inspection next year, but that will likely happen sooner, Malone said.
"There is a good possibility that we do a full inspection of the files and a physical inspection this year," Malone said.
Aside from the fire damage that forced residents out, lack of communication among PK Management, local nonprofits and the city was the major problem during the crisis, city Economic & Community Development Administrator Donna Williams said. The issue hasn't been resolved, but it has "improved considerably," she said.
"Had PK Management been more open to cooperating with the city and service providers, things could have gone much better," Williams said.
PK Management co-owner Greg Perlman said in a letter this week the company was wrong to leave city officials and local service providers out of the loop during the crisis. He said in the future the company would strive to be a "good citizen of Chattanooga."
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at email@example.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.