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Fears That Oak Park Apartment Could Collapse Leave Panicked Residents Scrambling To Evacuate

By Megan Hickey and Marie Saavedra

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- The clock was ticking late Tuesday for dozens of people living in an Oak Park building.

They have ordered to leave, immediately, because of concerns the building may collapse.

And as CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, many residents of the building, at 930 North Blvd. near Kenilworth Avenue, say they have nowhere to go.

The residents were given just five days' notice to pack up all of their belongings and move out. People continued to move out of the building through the evening Tuesday – sometimes one box at a time – while the lobby remained full of boxes and tape. A stack of extra U-Haul boxes were also set up for people to use.

Residents said they are just waiting to hear about next steps.

"It's completely chaotic," one man who lives in the building said.

The Village of Oak Park said 930 North Blvd. is in "imminent danger of failure or collapse."

"All of a sudden it's so bad, you've got to get out of here – but they don't make you get out of here immediately," the man said. "They let you stay a few days. If it doesn't fall down, then you can leave.

Residents were left scrambling after receiving this evacuation notice on Friday.

"What you going to do? What can you do?" said resident Eddie Flowers. "Nothing."

Flowers told Hickey that he was planning to die here in his apartment at 930 North Blvd.

However, on Friday night, he and everyone else in the building got the letter stating that a village inspector discovered sloping floors and a "visible structural repair." Thus, he and the other residents of the 48-unit building would need to evacuate - ASAP, the letter said.

In tears, first-floor resident Joyce Brown told CBS 2: "I've been there for nine consecutive years, and they tell me I have to be out tomorrow - and I have nowhere to go."

Brown said she hasn't slept since she got the letter.

"How could you sleep thinking tomorrow night you've got to be gone?" she said.

And she says her calls to the management company, 33 Realty, to help her find a place to relocate have gone unanswered.

"I have high blood pressure; it makes me very nervous," Brown said.

Austine Bridgeford has lived in the building for 18 years, and also found out about the evacuation order on Friday, in an email.

"I had to read it twice because I couldn't believe it," Bridgeford told CBS 2's Marie Saavedra. "We have elderly; we have a couple of disabled - you know, and it's not easy.

So she was set Tuesday night to spend the hours knee deep in bubble wrap.

"The movers are going to be here 9 o'clock tomorrow morning, so that doesn't give me much time to finish up," Bridgeford said.

The Village of Oak Park told Hickey their records show the building was not fully occupied. The village also sent the CBS 2 Investigators a memo dated Oct. 27 from their chief building inspector raising several issues to 33 Realty.

The memo said an inspector discovered "…the residential unit floors were sloping approximately 3"‐4". The inspector also witnessed "a large structural repair on a concrete beam."

The village also told the CBS 2 Investigators that 33 Realty is required to provide a relocation plan. Residents say they're not aware of any official plan, or any financial help for their unexpected moves.

"If they're taking us out of here, they either need to give us our money back or find a place," a resident said.

After 38 years living in the apartment building, he said he's left feeling helpless.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm not a wimp, but ... it's out of my hands out of my control," he said.

And residents are running out of time.

"You want people to pay their rent on time?" Flowers said. "Then when they call you, respond."

The Village of Oak Park gave the management company until Friday to send them an updated engineering report. The company missed that deadline, and that is why the evacuation was ordered by Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m.

"We want the priority to be making sure all of them are safe and making sure all of them have somewhere to go," said property manager James Moore of 33 Realty.

Moore said he knows there is a human toll involved with all this. He said it was the village that did not them enough time.

"They've asked us for a report. Unfortunately, the deadline they gave us was very rapid, we wouldn't be able to produce that information in that amount of time," he said, "but we are actively working to do that."

Even with the chaos, Bridgeford is grateful there's people looking out for her safety. But the timing was something she did not expect.

"I ask the Lord to just watch over me, watch over my neighbors till we can get out of here," she said.

We should have more information once the property company's structural stability report is complete.

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