By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
The Union at Dearborn, the dorm project under construction across Evergreen Road by Urban Campus Communities, did not have their side of the story in last week’s investigative article.
On Friday, The Michigan Journal sat down with Larry Winokur, managing partner at UCC. to get his side of the story.
The Union at Midtown complex near Wayne State University, mentioned at the heart of the story, reported a burst water pipe. That much was true. But a later investigation pointed to human error as the cause, not shoddy construction, as the article might suggest.
According to code requirements in the city of Detroit, fire suppression systems must be placed in the attic. A construction worker at the Midtown UCC development, who was not supervised by other fire suppression subcontractors, connected two pipes to the system – a big mistake.
Six months after completion, the pipes burst. Because of the flooding, the building had to be evacuated.
All 135 students affected by the flooding were accommodated with other housing, some even going to hotels at UCC’s expense. This was no small task, as residency in Detroit’s Midtown area is at or near capacity.
“We made a decision on Wednesday, based on in large part the input from the city, that we had to evacuate our tenants,” Winokur said. “Starting on Friday we had, in our common room, representatives of Wayne State University, representatives of other housing projects in the area, and we got everybody relocated.”
Winokur added that the University of Michigan—Dearborn was aware of the problem.
“Obviously they didn’t find anything wrong or they wouldn’t have signed the agreements,” he said.
As mentioned by Vice Chancellor Henderson and Winokur, the University did extensive background research on the company before hiring them to develop the property across the street.
The University did so and the decision went as high as the U-M Board of Regents.
(UM-D Vice Chancellor Stanley Henderson, in a piece printed here in the Journal, said: “What impressed us the most was the commitment and care they took in promptly placing every resident of that project in alternative housing. In fact, that was prominently mentioned in the MJ story. Sometimes what you do when things go wrong gives a clearer picture of how you will operate when things are going well. We liked what we saw.”
Winokur expects the WSU complex to be ready by May 1 and full occupancy come time when students return for the fall semester.
According to the city of Dearborn’s code, the fire suppression system in the UM-D project will not be in the attic, but somewhere else in the buildings. They are also using the same contractor’s as they did for the Midtown complex.
UM-Dearborn will be renting out 15,000 square feet from the developers, paying $250,000 annually. By this fall, the complex should be ready for student occupancy. The $29.5 million dollar complex will encompass five buildings and is already leasing to any current students interested in joining the Union family.