Milwaukee officials closed the garage at 601 W. Wells St. on Friday after months of warning the building owners that safety repairs needed to be made.
“We didn’t feel that the garage was in danger of collapsing on Friday,” said Art Dahlberg, the city commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood Services. “But we didn’t want chunks of concrete to fall on people or cars in the building.”
The garage is owned by TTOW Properties of Dallas LLC and is managed by Capitol Corporate Services Inc., Austin, Texas.
Representatives from the companies could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Dahlberg said the problems were discovered in the six-story garage in July during a routine fire protection inspection. Cracks and spalling were discovered, as were some temporary supports correcting some of the problems.
“No permits had been issued for the shoring,” Dahlberg said. “The owners were issued several emergency repair orders.”
The garage was not closed at the time because the owner submitted engineering reports that showed the structure could carry the load of the daily traffic to the building. Upon re-inspection, additional cracks in beams were discovered, and the owner was ordered to submit repair plans and apply for permits.
By December, the city still did not have the plans for the needed work, Dahlberg said. The department then notified the owner the garage would be placarded, or ordered closed, if the repair project did not move forward, he said.
“Shortly thereafter, we received copies of the signed contracts for the work,” Dahlberg said.
The inspection Friday was to make sure the work was done, he said. Some work had been done but other deficiencies were found, and inspectors ordered the building closed, he said.
The garage was built in 1972 and has a fair market value of $4.6 million, according to city records.
The 560-space garage is fully leased by the nearby Milwaukee Area Technical College for $46,923 a month, said Ginny Gnadt, a spokeswoman for the school. Most of the spaces are used by faculty or staff members but some spots are used by students, she said.
“We had no idea what was going on until we got a call from the building inspector,” Gnadt said. “We sent e-mail and voicemail messages to alert the garage users.”
Only 200 to 300 cars were in the garage at the time the city closed it, she said. The cars were allowed to remain in the garage for the day, but none were allowed to enter after the mid-morning inspection.
Gnadt said the school recently chose not to renew its lease with the garage owner. MATC planned to move to a garage on the nearby campus of The Pabst Brewing Company Complex at West Juneau Avenue and North 9th Street on March 1.
“The Brewery allowed us to begin using their lot immediately,” Gnadt said.
Gnadt said there were no reports of injuries or damage caused by falling concrete but said school officials had been working with the owners of the Wells Street garage on other issues.
“We had complaints about the elevators not working well,” she said, “or homeless people sleeping in the stairwells and of cleanliness issues.”
Dahlberg said the owners will have 30 days to make repairs or face a condemnation order.