Downtown Chattanooga's Patten Towers soon may reopen

Downtown Chattanooga's Patten Towers soon may reopen

June 18th, 2013 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Patten Towers

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

If PK Management has done what city officials have called "the impossible," residents of Patten Towers may return home far sooner than expected.

Since the May 28 electrical fire that emptied the 11-story downtown Section 8 apartment building, PK Management, the building's owner, reportedly has been working day and night to address issues found during a post-fire inspection, according to Jeff Cannon, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Andy Berke.

Jeff Cannon

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

The repairs, namely the replacement of an electrical switch gear, were expected to take eight weeks. But Cannon said Monday at a meeting of social service organizations at Red Cross headquarters that PK Management has told the city it expects to open the building to inspectors Thursday or Friday.

"They have been working three shifts, 24 hours a day ... and say they have done what all our experts have said was the impossible," Cannon said.

The company also has extended hotel stays for many of its residents through Friday, he said.

"That indicates to us they feel like they are on the verge of getting people back in," Cannon said.

But Cannon cautioned: Getting inspected and passing inspection are two very different things.

PK Management will have to show it has resolved three critical issues before the city will allow the building's 241 residents to move back home, Cannon said.

According to a June 4 letter sent by Chattanooga officials to PK Management, the company will have to provide comprehensive analyses of the building's electrical and structural systems -- along with detailed plans to replace or repair them.

Additionally, the building will have to meet standards set by the city fire marshal. The company also must show how it will deal with a list of nonfire-related public health issues found by inspectors.

Representatives from nonprofits were pleased to hear Patten Towers residents may go home some four weeks early, but many wondered who would be responsible for getting them there.

Patten Towers residents stand outside of the closed building waiting for information on when they can move back in to their homes after 241 residents were evacuated Tuesday evening when an electrical fire broke out in the basement.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

"Could Plan A be asking PK Management to put together a re-entry plan?" asked Donna Maddox, president of Johnson Mental Health Center.

Maddox said she is concerned that PK Management would lean on local nonprofits for transportation and move-ins when resources already are stretched.

In an attempt to defuse widespread frustration among local organizations toward the building's owner, Kimberly George, director of marketing and development for the local Salvation Army, urged local organizations to keep the focus on helping the residents.

PK Management officials were invited to Monday's meeting, but none attended.

Officials with the company also did not respond to an email Monday asking for details about the progress of the repairs.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@times freepress.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.