COLUMBIA — Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, Brookside announced to its residents that 30 percent of the Brookside on College structure would be ready before or shortly after the start of the fall semester, according to a post on Brookside's Facebook page. A fire early Sunday gutted the apartments under construction at College Avenue and Walnut Street.
Brookside wrote that tenants will have the option to terminate their lease or remain with Brookside until their particular unit is ready.
Brookside posted the following message late Sunday afternoon on its Facebook page.
The ashes are still cooling, but our rebuilding begins today. About one hour ago, we were able to gain entry to the site with structural engineers who are helping us to determine what parts of the building are suitable for completion as scheduled. Based on these preliminary assessments, we can reasonably state that about 30% of the building can be ready before or shortly after school starts this August. We also believe it likely that the remainder can be ready for the next semester in January.
That said, we want to share with you your options for housing this fall:
1. If you wish to terminate your lease with Brookside, you may of course do so. Our leases have a clause which takes into account this sort of disaster and allows you to break your lease should the unthinkable occur. If you choose to go this route, please be aware that there are those would take advantage of victims of disaster. Should you wish to find another housing provider, we are happy to assist with references and leads and encourage you to contact us for help.
2. You may choose to keep your spot at Brookside on College. For those who choose this option, we are in the process of negotiating temporary housing with Stephens College until such time as our units are ready for occupancy. This temporary housing is located nearby and we hope to have details, including cost, very soon. We further thank Stephens College for their support of our residents during this difficult time.
Once we are able to further refine the schedule for occupancy of each unit, we will be contacting each resident directly to determine their preference. This should occur before the end of this week. Thank you for your patience, and we will have more updates as they come along.
About 10:30 a.m., this mesage was posted on Brookside's Facebook page:
Dear Residents of Brookside on College,
This morning at 5AM, our building at College and Walnut caught fire and burned. We currently working hard to assess the situation and determine the extent of the damage. It's very early in the process, but at this time we are hopeful that some units may be ready for occupancy sooner than others.
Our residents are our first priority, and to this end we are already working to obtain temporary housing for those who will need it. We met this morning with Stephens College and it appears that through them we will have temporary housing for every single resident in the fall.
In keeping with the aforementioned focus on our residents we will be sharing as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. We will be issuing daily updates, with additional updates as important information becomes available. Please watch for these updates in your email in the days to come.
If the future residents decide to remain, Brookside posted earlier Sunday that temporary housing would be available at Stephens College this fall.
"Our residents are our first priority, and to this end we are already working to obtain temporary housing for those who will need it," the post read in part. "We met this morning with Stephens College and it appears that through them we will have temporary housing for every single resident in the fall."
The Columbia Fire Department got several 911 calls at 5:11 a.m. reporting flames coming from the building, Capt. John Metz said.
The Fire Department reached the scene two minutes later, he said, and immediately called in all available Columbia personnel. Metz said it was unsafe to attack the inside of the building, so the crews went into "defensive mode," protecting the surrounding buildings.
He said there was so much heat from the fire that it melted traffic lights on College and blinds and air vents at Stephens College residence halls across the street.
Metz said no one was injured in the fire.
A preliminary damage estimate has been set at $7 million, according to the Columbia Fire Department.
The apartments were scheduled to open for student residents in August. The 145,000-square-foot development is owned by Jon and Nathan Odle, who also own Brookside Downtown, a student apartment complex opened at Tenth and Cherry streets in August 2010.
Metz said the department won’t know the cause of the fire Sunday, but two fire investigators were standing by. As of 12:30 p.m., the units were still putting out hot spots and small flames throughout the complex.
The fire hoses had stopped as of 3:30 p.m., however hot spots still remained, Lt. Brian Wasson of the Fire Department said. He also said several forklifts and cranes were brought to the scene to prevent structural debris from falling into the street.
By 6:45 p.m., Metz said the Fire Department had turned the property back over to the owners for their assessment. He said it's up to the owners and structural engineers to decide whether the structure is salvageable.
If the structure is deemed unrepairable, the property owners will tear it down, Metz said.
Speculation Sunday morning about the cause of the fire on the Columbia Citizens group listserv prompted Battalion Chief Steven Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department to weigh in with the following email:
"While I have never commented on any posting, as a professional, I do ask that everyone delay speculation concerning the origin and and cause of this fire. Trained, professional fire investigators are on scene and will complete a thorough investigation over the days and weeks to follow. Rampant and unfounded speculation does more to hinder the investigation the help.
"I ask for your community assistance by not speculating on blog sites, but by contacting the Columbia Fire Department with any relevant, factual information you may have."
Last week, the developers agreed to support Mayor Bob McDavid's new FastCAT transit proposal in return for his support of 120-unit apartments south of Brookside on College. The Planning and Zoning Commission had previously denied their request at a meeting May 10, and the issue has yet to reach the City Council.
Neither the Odle brothers nor Brookside management could be reached for comment.
While Columbia firefighters controlled the Brookside fire, Boone County Fire Department personnel filled in at city stations one through four and helped respond to several other incidents.
As of 5:13 a.m., 40 firefighters, 10 firetrucks and two rescue squads had reported to the scene, Metz said.
The bulk of the three-story, roughly 100-unit structure is "significantly damaged," Metz said, and the north and south wings of the building are almost gone.
Metz said he was uncertain how many gallons of water had been used to extinguish the fire. He said that because the building was under construction, if the structure had smoke alarms or sprinklers, they would not have been activated.
Rich Denton, whose company Rock-N-River LLC of Columbia was applying stucco to the apartments, said he got there between 8 and 8:30 a.m.
“I had some guys come into work this morning and call me to say that the building was on fire,” Denton said. “I just can’t believe it — for whatever reason, electrical, someone starting it, it’s just unbelievable.”
“It’s a shame because there were cabinets and everything in the rooms, there would be a few months more work, but it would have been finished in time,” Denton said.
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