By Maddy Vitale
Residents at Gardens Plaza, a luxury Ocean City high-rise condominium that was damaged and left uninhabitable when a pipe burst in January, received some good news this weekend.
“The city approved occupancy for floors 15, 14, 12 and 11,” Gardens Plaza Board of Directors President William Drayton said in an email. “We have to complete the corridor fire wall on the remaining floors. As they are completed and inspected by the city, then they (residents) will be able to move back in. It will be a process over the next several weeks to be able to fully occupy the building.”
There are approximately 182 residences in the condominium complex at 921 Park Place. There are 30 people who live in them full time, with the rest of the condos being vacation homes.
At about 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 9, a standpipe burst on the penthouse level of the north stairwell and flooded a portion of the building. Thousands of gallons of water poured onto a landing and gushed down the stairwell.
Emergency workers responded quickly, told residents to gather up some belongings, and they were evacuated, residents told OCNJdaily.com at the time of the incident. Some people went to their other residences, others to family and others to hotels.
But after nearly two months, residents in the top four floors were told they could get back in their homes. On Friday, the city gave permission to allow occupants to return to those floors, but with the weekend nor’easter, board member Vic Staniec said he didn’t think many people went back to their homes yet.
“Sure, it is good news, but as far as a time frame for the rest of the residents to get in, we just don’t know,” Staniec said of everyone being allowed back in. “We are just waiting for the city’s inspectors to give final approval, so more people could move in.”
Staniec is the only board member who lives in the high rise. He and his wife have a place on the 10th floor. They have been staying at one of their other properties in Ocean City.
Staniec said the couple moved to the high rise, in part, because of the convenience, especially for the use of the elevator. Right now, he said, his wife is having difficulty because she has to walk up and down steps in their temporary residence.
“The city is doing the best it can. They are following regulations. But we have a lot of seniors there on disability,” Staniec said. “They need to get back in their places.”
The cause of the standpipe failure in the building’s north stairwell was the sudden thawing of the pipe after frigid temperatures, officials said at the time of the incident.
At the time of the pipe failure at Gardens Plaza, firefighters were handling numerous calls in Ocean City for burst pipes due to thawing after freezing conditions.
The Gardens Plaza is between Third Street and Fourth Street on Park Place. It offers one, two and three-bedroom units, as well as five-bedroom/four-bath penthouse residences. Amenities include a gym, heated swimming pool and an area for parties and other social gatherings, according to its website www.thegardensplaza.com/.
Drayton said that the hope is to return the residents to their units as soon as possible. He noted that Dave Bennett, the general manager of Gardens Plaza, is overseeing the repairs necessitated by the standpipe failure.
Staniec said he and his wife are very eager to move back in their home and hope that that day will be sooner than later.
“We are paying for the luxury, and right now all we can do is sit and wait,” he said. “We just cooperate.”