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About three months before the partial collapse of a downtown Davenport apartment building — and again just two days before — a masonry company owner said he predicted it was coming.
City officials say at least five people are unaccounted for after the partial collapse Sunday evening at 324 Main St. Families of two men fear they remain under the rubble of the fallen west side of the six-story building.
No new updates came from the city Wednesday on rescue operations or a potential timeline for demolishing the building, which remains standing after city officials said Monday that “demolition is expected to commence” on Tuesday.
However, the city released hundreds of pages of documents Wednesday close to 6 p.m. detailing structural engineering reports, notices of violations, orders to vacate some apartments and resident complaints over the past three years.
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Ryan Shaffer, co-owner of R. A. Masonry, was working nearby at 112 W. 3rd St., the former Antonella’s Pizza, in February. While on the job, he said, he was approached by Andrew Wold, the owner of the building where the collapse occurred.
Shaffer said Wold asked him to supply a quote for work on the nearby apartment building. When he did, he said, the bid was rejected because it was too high.
“He wanted to cut the cost by cutting out the shoring and supporting of the building,” Shaffer said.
Shoring is done to prop up a building when the structure is deemed unsafe, Shaffer explained. The bid for that work alone came in at about $50,000.
“I said, ‘If we don’t do it this way exactly, I’m not putting my guys in there. Somebody is going to die,’ ” he said.
According to Shaffer, Wold then shopped around for someone who would do the work for an acceptable price. City records reflect this.
On Feb. 22, the city of Davenport issued a permit for, “structural masonry repairs to west elevation as specified in engineer’s report.”
According to the permit, the job came at a cost of nearly $40,000. The contractor listed is Bi-State Masonry.
City inspection records show a final inspection was done on March 1 by Trishna Pradhan, the chief building official for Davenport. The building passed inspection, and the work was being completed in line with the structural engineer’s report.
The exterior finish of the building needed to match the historic fabric of the rest of the building. Pradhan wrote that the contractor was aware and the owner was being informed.
In the next sentence, it was noted Bi-State was off the job as of March 1 because the “owner did not agree to their change order for installing brick outside.”
Pradhan continued, saying repair work was on hold but shoring was in place and, “site is secure. Owner has not submitted new timeline for work to commence.”
Work then appears to have resumed, and it passed three more city inspections on April 12, April 21, and May 1. In the last one, the inspector noted “repair work has been completed per Engineer’s Report.”
Brickwork done in the days before collapse
A separate permit for brickwork was filed on Wednesday, May 24. City records indicate the job consisted of replacing 100 feet of brick on the exterior of the building, per city code.
The permit says the work came at a cost of $3,000. The contractor on the job is listed as “owner.”
Shaffer said, in his opinion, the work described would account for only one-third of what needed to be done. Saturday, one day before the collapse, he drove by and saw a pile of bricks on the ground.
“(Wold) was calling us and asking for I-beams and stuff to support it. I looked at it and was like, ‘There’s no saving it at this point,’” he said.
Friday, two days before the building collapsed, Shaffer said he went to the apartment building and told workers, “Get away. You’re going to die.”
Sunday, at 3:30 p.m., less than two hours before it collapsed, he warned workers at the site of 324 Main St. that they needed to leave.
“We were here working all day,” he said, referring to his work at the former Antonella’s location. “Literally, we were just waiting for the building to drop.”
The city inspected the partially completed brickwork being done in the days before the collapse. That work also included internal concrete masonry with rebar and grout. Notes in the city inspection records pledged that the owner-hired engineer and city inspector would stop over periodically to see progress.
Social media users this week questioned why the status of that final inspection on the city’s website changed. On Monday, as viewed through an internet archived site, the city’s site listed the May 25 inspection as “passed.” Now, that same inspection status is “failed.”
City officials attributed this to a system “glitch” that the city is working to correct. The site “shows any inspection marked as ‘Incomplete’ with a fail/error message” Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Ott wrote in an email and included screenshots of the internal systems.
“This is not a failed inspection but an incomplete inspection since no re-inspection could be completed,” she wrote.
Select Structural Engineering, of Bettendorf, was hired by Wold to advise on work being done on the building in the past year. City officials said the engineering firm had determined that the building was structurally sound for tenants to stay in while the exterior work was being done.
When a reporter reached the business through a publicly listed phone number, a man who declined to give his name said they are aware of what happened and are “still trying to determine the details of the situation.”
He declined to answer any questions.
However, among the documents posted by the city Wednesday is an inspection report by Select Structural, performed May 23, which reads, “On the west face of the building, there are several large patches of clay brick façade, which are separating from the substrate. These large patches appear ready to fall imminently, which may create a safety hazard to cars or passersby.”
The report said two window openings appeared to be bricked over several years ago, and the clay-brick façade was “bulging outward.”
The contractor should secure it to “keep the entire face of the building from falling away when the bottom area(s) come loose,” the report said.
To the north, the report said a wall “appears to be (losing) some stability.”
An interior steel furring and drywall “bulge as if a large downward force is acting upon them.” Adding a steel column to support it would alleviate that force, the report recommended.
City issues citation to building owner
On Tuesday, the city cited Wold, accusing him of failing to maintain the building at 324 Main St. in a safe, sanitary and structurally sound condition, according to Scott County court records.
Records show that if convicted, the fine for a first violation of the city code is $300 plus $95 for court fees.
The city also asked the court for an order barring Wold from further violations of the municipal code. A hearing, at which Wold can answer the charges, has been set for June 9.
Earlier this year, the city of Davenport declared the property a nuisance, because it violated city code by leaving dumpsters overflowing at the property between 2022 and 2023. Wold did not contest the 19 violations, and he was ordered to pay the city $4,500 plus court costs in March.
In a statement on Wednesday, Wold and two property managers wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers are with our tenants and families during this difficult time.”
They thanked first responders, and said they were “working closely with American Red Cross and other agencies to assist the displaced tenants affected by this event.”
History of the building
The building dates back to the early 1900s, when it opened as the Hotel Davenport in 1907 with 150 rooms. At the time, it was heralded by a reporter for the Daily Times as “one of the finest hoteleries west of Chicago” and a beacon for progress in the downtown.
The Davenport was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The architects that designed the building, Temple and Burrows, also designed other buildings in the downtown, including the Hotel Blackhawk in 1915, the former Union Trust and Savings Bank (now called the Union Arcade Building) and the federal building at 4th and Brady streets.
In the mid-1980s, when the brick-over-steel-and-concrete structure’s use as a hotel had diminished and the building had faded, it was rehabbed by a Des Plaines, Ill.-developer who undertook a $5.5 million project to turn it into apartments called The Davenport. The original 150 hotel rooms became 78 rental units and opened in 1987, according to Quad-City Times archives.
Since then, the building changed hands several times.
Most recently, Wold, through his company Davenport Hotel, LLC, bought the property for $4.193 million in June 2021, according to county records.
What other buildings does Wold own?
Wold has significant investments in Davenport real estate, including more apartment buildings downtown. Listed in a web of limited liability corporations, many with only a single property, Wold’s address and information can be traced to ownership of at least three buildings downtown, public records show, and dozens of houses and business buildings across the city.
Among those downtown are:
- The Roosevelt, 307 W 6th St., a 32-unit apartment building Wold bought for $1.16 million in 2020. The four-story building was built in 1907. For a long time, the building housed the Salvation Army until 2018, when the organization sold to Foundry Apartments, LLC, in 2018.
- The Dorothea, 311 W. 3rd St., a 24-unit apartment building, which a company registered to Wold’s address bought in 2022 for close to $1 million. That building also houses a law office on the ground floor.
- 217 Brady St., a three-story building doing business as M Lounge and apartments that dates back to the late 1880s.
Downtown Davenport Partnership Executive Director Kyle Carter said with several other properties owned by Wold downtown, he hoped an investigation would get to the bottom of what happened at 324 Main St. to ensure nothing like it happened again.
He said the partnership would work to help relocate the three businesses at 324 Main St. and help the businesses surrounding the property that were forced to close by the building’s collapse.
“We’ll do our part, and our board will have to discuss how we might go about doing that,” Carter said Tuesday. “The city has the larger burden, dealing with the infrastructure issues and the residents, but ultimately it’s just disappointing to see that a building got to this point. My heart goes out to the people that are in there that there’s potentially people that lost their lives. It should never have come to that. We have a lot of excellent property ownership who would put in millions of dollars to make sure that things like this don’t happen.”
Who else is involved?
The Davenport Building is owned by the Davenport Hotel, LLC. The LLC is registered to Wold, who bought the building in 2021.
Wold is also the owner of Andrew Wold Investments LLC, according to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.
The registered agent on that property is Robert H. Gallagher. His son, Robert S. Gallagher is the mayor of Bettendorf. The pair work together at their firm, Gallagher, Millage & Gallagher, PLC.
In Iowa, a registered agent is any individual or entity who is designated to receive legal documents on behalf of the business. An owner or employee of the company can be the registered agent as long as that person lives in Iowa, is at least 18 years old and has an office in the state.
What did the apartments cost?
Listings for the building still are available on Zillow. Apartment 608, described as a 600-square-foot studio, was being advertised for $800 a month. The listing said the space was newly renovated with brand new stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and hardwood style flooring.
The lease was for one year and pet friendly with a one-time free and preapproval from management. Parking was offered off-street for an additional $50 a month.
Unit 503, a 650-square-foot one-bedroom, was offered for $850 a month. That listing said the owner would pay for water, heat, sewer and trash.