Gunshot incident just latest safety concern at Hancock Center, say unit owners
Loop North News

CRIME & SAFETY 175 E Delaware Pl - MAP

(Above) John Hancock Center (center frame) from North Avenue Beach in July 2016. (Click on image to view larger version.)

8-Mar-21 – A bullet piercing the wall of a 57th floor condominium unit at John Hancock Center in January has only reminded unit owners of what they say is a pattern of safety issues at the 100-story Mag Mile tower.

Among their concerns is the City of Chicago Emergency Preparedness for High Rise Buildings procedure plan. Four unit owners wrote to Barry Bowen, president of 175 East Delaware Place Homeowner Association, on February 5, saying he has failed to implement such a plan. For a Category 1 high-rise building such as John Hancock Center, that would include safety drills twice a year under the supervision of a certified Fire Safety Director.

“Those of us who live in the building have not received guidance on emergency evacuation,” wrote unit owners Kathy Gregg, Michael Gregg, Thomas Jenkins, and Dennis Kmetz.

Speaking with Loop North News on February 26, a group of Hancock unit owners expressed frustration with even getting access to the emergency preparedness plan. The owners say that at a recent condo association meeting, a board member introduced a motion that asked for a digital copy of the plan to be provided to all board members for review but was refused.

Dennis Kmetz

“They told her you can’t have copies,” said Kmetz (left). He says the board member was told she could only read the plan at the management office.

According to Jenkins, a “large population” of unit owners at Hancock are dissatisfied with what they say is a lack of communication from their homeowner association and its management company, Sudler Property Management, in both dire and non-dire situations.

Questions remain about January gunshot incident

At about 8:00 p.m. on January 29, two residents of John Hancock Center were in their bedroom on the 57th floor when they heard a loud noise and saw drywall on the floor coming from a hole in the wall. A bullet had gone through their living room wall from the neighboring unit, grazing a lamp and entering the bedroom wall. They found the bullet on the floor at the foot of the bed.

When police arrived, including SWAT teams from six beats, they went to the door of the unit where the gun was fired but despite several attempts, there was no answer.

An employee of the residential property management office contacted the owner of the unit and learned there was just one person living there. The management office offered to let police into the unit but police declined, choosing to wait four hours for a search warrant.

The SWAT teams then forced their way into the 57th floor condo unit but found it unoccupied. They did find fresh spackle on a wall adjacent to the unit where the bullet was found. But the resident of the unit, said to be the son of the unit owner, was gone. Surveillance video showed him taking a freight elevator to a loading dock and leaving the building at 8:13 p.m.

There were no reports of any injuries.

While the identity of the man believed to have fired the gun is known, what is not known is why the gun was fired.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

“It could have been anything,” said unit owner Norman Kabir. “It could have been as simple as if he had a gun and was cleaning it and it went off and he freaked out.”

Ten days after the incident, the condo board voted to not evict the resident, and his key fob was not deactivated. Though management would know if the resident entered the building again, they would not know right away.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

“They have to go through records the next day and then verify with cameras,” explained Drew McManus (left), one of 48 members of the condo association’s board of directors. “It’s a 24-hour process for them to know who’s coming in and out of the building.”

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

The gunshot incident, says Jenkins, is “one of many” potentially life-threatening situations at Hancock Center in which he says building management and the condo board have downplayed and provided to residents “no communication whatsoever.”

“The incidents, which many feel put our lives at risk, have residents worried and concerned, with some thinking of selling and moving from the building,” he said.

Residents say they were ‘left on their own’ during violent protests

Though spared from physical damage, the rioting and looting in late May 2020 frightened residents of John Hancock Center – and arguably every other building in downtown Chicago – and, say unit owners there, caught their property management by surprise.

“Our building was completely unprepared to deal with it,” said McManus. “They had no emergency preparedness plan covering this type of civil unrest.”

Emails to building management went unanswered, said Kmetz.

Unit owners say there was one doorman on duty during the violence and no windows were boarded up until after the rioting was over.

“It works in their favor to wait for an emergency, throw up their hands, and then dole out money to anybody they see fit to fix the problem, rather than budgeting ahead of time and doing things in a proper, informed manner,” said Kabir (right).

Norman Kabir

Bowen has defended his limited involvement, saying board members “have no role in an emergency situation.”

Barry Bowen

“The board sets policy and works with management to implement policy but management manages the building,” said Bowen (left) at an emergency meeting of 175 East Delaware Place Homeowner Association on February 8.

“Management manages situations. It’s not the board’s or my role to be involved in that. We have a professional management company that takes care of that,” he said.

But Jenkins says they “were left on our own” by building management during the rioting.

“Our doormen were left in the lobby to fend for themselves,” said Jenkins (right). “No one from management had the foresight to board up our front windows and doors at our Delaware Place entrance or arrange for some type of security. Our building could very easily have been compromised and we had the potential of having rioters and looters running through our hallways.”

Thomas Jenkins

He says neighbors communicated by text what they learned from news media, police scanners, and by looking out their windows.

Said Jenkins, “It was a horrible night and was probably the scariest night in my life. We were put in a very vulnerable position by Sudler, by building manager Jenny Kobzarev, and by board president Barry Bowen.”

Still a good place to live

The unit owners agree that Hancock Center is still a good building, with quick access to Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, and other attractions.

Photo by Steven Dahlman

“The building itself is amazing and full of incredibly talented people,” said Kabir. “We love living here. It’s the perfect location. The views are phenomenal and the people are wonderful.”

(Left) View of Navy Pier from John Hancock Center.

 Previous story: Hancock unit owners hear harrowing details of gunshot on 57th floor

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

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