RIVER NORTH — It’s shaping up to be one bummer of a summer for Marina City, where some residents have been banned from their balconies.
City inspectors discovered trouble with nearly 2,000 balcony railings on the iconic corncob-shaped towers, a complex once considered a “seedy crumbling wreck” that a Cook County judge predicted would “fall in the Chicago River,” but recently was tagged a city landmark.
Mark Konkol talks about issues facing Marina City residents.
While crews work to fix 1,920 handrail posts, 1,300 balusters and 1,020 bottom rails, some residents have been banned from using the balconies for four months or longer.
Marina City resident Andy Roesgen got the bad news when management slipped a notice under his door informing him that his balcony would be closed for repairs during July and August.
“Looks like the summer is lost for me,” he said.
Roesgen admits that not being able to use the balcony in a Downtown high-rise might sound like a “rich people problem.”
But the reality is the balcony ban essentially gobbles up what people consider their second living room and the best amenity in Marina City’s pie-shape apartments.
“It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the balconies weren’t the second biggest rooms in our homes. And to lose that is a huge summer bummer,” he said.
“What’s worse is that we’re not allowed to open the door to the balcony to let the breeze in.”
Marina City’s on-site service coordinator, John Janiec, said each affected balcony will take at least eight weeks and, for people with two balconies, as long as 16 weeks to repair to ensure cement used to install replacement posts and railings cures properly.
“The balcony repair is something that the city mandated,” Janiec said.
A City Hall source, however, said that the city didn’t call for the balcony ban.
An April 15, 2015, inspection resulted in building code violations including “failure to maintain the exterior walls of a building or structure” at 300 N. State St. It required a “comprehensive inspection of the building’s exterior,” city buildings department spokeswoman Mimi Simon said.
“The building’s management hired an engineering firm to conduct this examination, which found that all of the building's facades and balconies need to be repaired or replaced to bring them up to code,” Simon said.
In March, the Marina Towers Condominum Association obtained a building permit to make more than $2.1 million in repairs to balconies at all elevations, public records show.
DKcondo, Marina City’s management company, did not respond to a request to be interviewed about the construction project.
Janiec offered vague details about the repairs, saying that it could take up to eight weeks to fix each affected balcony railing.
“Everything is a process. There are eight or nine steps to replace posts and certain grout takes a long time to cure,” Janiec said. “We are trying to get all the [repair] work done this year.”
Some residents, however, say they’ve been banned from balconies since October and they haven’t been given any guarantee the work will be finished this year.
I talked to one renter who asked not to be identified because she didn’t want to be accused of being a whiner.
She has been shut out of her balcony since October, when Marina City management marked the interior door to her balcony with yellow caution tape.
“They put one strip of ugly yellow tape across the door inside my apartment. I left it there for a couple weeks until I got so sick of looking at it,” she said.
“The reason I live here is for the balcony. My whole summer, I’m not going to say it’s ruined, but it’s a lot less fun than last year when I had friends out on my balcony all the time.”
In her case, the balcony is the same size as the living room in her studio apartment.
“Right now only four people can fit in my studio. And that stinks,” she said. “I called my landlord and said that is not acceptable. … I did get my rent lowered by $100, which I’m happy about. But it still sucks.”
Construction of Marina City in the early 1960s. [Chicago History Museum}
Check out this cool video of the history of Marina City from the Chicago Architecture Foundation:
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