long way home
Hurriedly evacuated from their homes, some carrying only pets or mail, the residents of a River Oaks-area high rise have yet to learn when they can return.
As previously reported, the Royalton at River Oaks, the familiar high-rise near Allen Parkway, was evacuated on August 12 night after its first floor flooded; some residents reported water in their units.
Since then, crews have been cleaning up the building and affected areas, while also evaluating it for structural concerns. Royalton representatives recently fired back at reporting that suggested the building was structurally unsafe.
In response to those initial news reports, Royalton representatives issued a statement, saying in part, "at no time was the building's structural integrity compromised." They also added that local City Council member Abbie Kamin noted that "at no time did the city pull the Royalton's occupancy permit."
CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports that inspectors say they still don't know what caused the building to flood and the concrete to buckle. Before any residents can return, the aforementioned city inspectors must validate the building's structural integrity.
That means, per ABC13, that the Royalton will be required to get structural, plumbing, electrical and possibly mechanical permits for long-term repairs, according to the Houston Department of Public Works.
Pietro Milillo, an assistant professor at the University of Houston's College of Engineering tells ABC13's Pooja Lodhia that satellite technology shows the building doesn't appear to have shifted.
"Right now," he says, "by looking at the points located at the east facade, we do not see any signs of structural stress. However, this does not imply that the building is safe."
Several residents have hired lawyers, Lodhia notes.
Meanwhile, Royalton representatives supplied a statement to ABC13, saying, in part:
The Royalton staff has worked around the clock assisting our residents in retrieving their personal belongings, pets, medications, and more. We immediately provided a list of hotel rooms at discounted rates offered to the residents for their convenience. The Royalton is collaborating with the City of Houston's Public Works department, the Houston Fire Department, category expert engineers, and others to address all outstanding issues and we are determined to get our residents back home as soon as possible. Safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the well-being of our residents.