Repairs to tower may take months: Tenants scramble for other arrangements

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It was a symbol of his success. For the last three years, environmental attorney Robert Clark has relished the view from his corner office in One Indiana Square, high above the streets of Indianapolis.

But on Sunday, April 2, tornadoforce winds left it in tatters. His family photos are gone. Likewise his case files and the many gifts he’d received over the years from friends or clients.

“I understand there are no exterior walls,” he said. “My desk is still there, but the books on the shelves are gone. If it wasn’t in my desk, my presumption is it’s missing.”

The severe storm damaged 16 of the skyscraper’s 36 stories. Sommer Barnard PC, the city’s sixth-largest law firm, occupies five floors at the top. Clark’s office was on the southwest corner of the 32nd level. He was one of 1,000 people working for the 35 companies displaced by the disaster. No one was injured, but they all spent the next week struggling to find temporary accommodations.

City inspectors quickly concluded the building’s structure is fundamentally sound. But glass and debris from the mutilated sections of the tower’s curtain wall remain a hazard, so the mayor closed every nearby street. And until further notice, tenants can enter only in tiny supervised groups to retrieve critical items.

Neither the building’s owners nor public officials could provide the timeline for repairs. But the best estimates admit it’s not a matter of days or weeks.

“I think it’s safe to assume it’s going to be months,” said Bill Chappell, senior project engineer for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and one of two city engineers who immediately inspected the building. “Even if it’s going to be a fairly simple repair, fabricating a new curtain wall is going to take some time. These aren’t off-the-shelf systems. They’ll have to be manufactured.”

Immediate response

One Indiana Square’s owners heard about the damage almost as soon as the storm hit. Todd Maurer, president of Indianapolis-based Halakar Properties, is leasing agent for the building. His father, Michael S. Maurer, was in New York at the time. They co-own the office tower with Indianapolis businessman Robert Schloss and Pittsburgh-based McKnight Development Co. The group bought One Indiana Square in Oct. 2001 for about $25 million. It was built in 1970 and, for two decades, was Indiana’s tallest skyscraper.

Michael Maurer is also Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, as well as the majority owner of IBJ Corp.

Thanks to a previously established disaster plan, the emergency was quickly contained. Shortly after midnight Sunday, Todd Maurer said, the building’s tenants were contacted and told to stay away indefinitely.

“Because there’s a plan in place, there’s no confusion. There’s no chaos,” he said. “You don’t have time to be emotional about it. If you are, you can’t get the plan done.”

Designed by the building’s property manager, Richard M. Hardin, the disaster plan dictated all that happened next. Todd Maurer said the plan details response procedures for everything from minor emergencies, such as broken pipes, to a major catastrophe.

By Monday morning, the building’s Indianapolis-based insurance agent, Gregory & Appel Insurance Inc., was on the scene. Private consulting engineers soon followed. Northbrook, Ill.-based Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. was named lead structural engineer, and Cincinnati-based Façade Forensics became lead engineer for the curtain wall. Other experts certified the structure’s air quality.

Mike Salazar, Gregory & Appel manager of client services for claims and loss control, expects insurance will cover all of the building’s necessary repairs. Although it never lost power and the damage was confined to its exterior walls, he estimates the price for tower repairs is in the “millions.” Warren, N.J.-based Chubb Group is One Indiana Square’s insurer.

Fortunately, Salazar said, the only losses were financial.

“Boy, if it had happened in the middle of a business day, that could have been a real frightening situation,” he said.

Everyone’s first concern was clearly safety. But by Tuesday, One Indiana Square’s owners had moved on to damage control of another kind, hiring Myra Borshoff Cook, principal of Indianapolisbased public relations firm Borshoff Johnson Matthews, to handle the flood of media inquiries.

“My kids only see me on TV now,” Todd Maurer joked, then noted he spent every day last week downtown from about 6:30 a.m. to midnight, addressing each new crisis.

“Every day is a new list of priorities.”

Business continuity

For One Indiana Square’s 35 tenants, last week was a scramble. With the help of Borshoff Johnson Matthews, the tower’s owners attempted to find temporary space for about a third of the displaced companies in nearby buildings and hotels. The other two-thirds found accommodations on their own.

Regions Bank Greater Indianapolis Region President Barbara Branic said many of the building’s tenants are also her clients. Some people even know the building as the “Regions Bank Tower.” She said her team began immediately contacting tenants to offer Regions’ services.

“We do know from experience these folks are going to need courier service, and lines of credit before business interruption insurance kicks in,” Branic said. “They need online banking and changes of address. So we’re focused on being

very proactive, trying to identify what they specifically need and how we can help.”

Mayor Bart Peterson declared returning to business as usual his second highest priority, after ensuring the public’s safety.

“There’s a lot of economic opportunity being lost by the tenants of that building,” he said. “It can’t be helpful to be in that position. So we want to see this taken care of as quickly as possible.”

That’s certainly true for companies that generate their income by physically operating out of One Indiana Square, such as its barber shop or Toscana Bistro, its restaurant.

But other tenants appeared to be recovering quickly in alternate locations. By mid-week, Sommer Barnard’s Clark was receiving his mail at the law firm’s northside office at Keystone at the Crossing. He marveled at the fact that he never missed a voice mail or e-mail. And most of his case documents were safely stored on Sommer Barnard’s computers, which never missed a beat.

Other lawyers involved in his cases have offered duplicate copies of most paper documents, he said, and Marion County courts have issued assurances of leniency for any delays.

“It’s a major inconvenience, but it’s a long way from the end of the world,” Clark said. “It’s been kind of a terrific feeling having everybody be so understanding. But the truth is, at this time, I don’t need it. We’re cooking along. Now, I don’t have an office, and there are things that would certainly make my life easier, but given what’s happened, everything has been great.”

The attorneys of Krieg DeVault LLP, the city’s seventh-largest law firm, were recovering similarly. Most either shifted to Krieg DeVault’s Carmel office or worked from home. The firm occupies floors 27 to 29 in One Indiana Square. In addition to the damaged walls, managing partner Mike Williams said water from a broken pipe on the 30th floor flowed into the two floors below. By 4:30 Monday afternoon, he said, Krieg DeVault’s computer system was completely accessible.

Silver lining

For now, the building’s tenants sound patient.

“I don’t have any doubts that the building ownership will get us back in that building,” Williams said. “They just don’t know when yet.”

Such loyalty is a silver lining for One Indiana Square’s owners. Todd Maurer said no tenants have yet sought to break their leases.

When his group bought the office tower in 2001, Todd Maurer said, it was only 33-percent occupied. Today, it is 73-percent full, with only 180,000 square feet available out of a total of 662,000. Space in One Indiana Square leases for about $18.50 per square foot.

Todd Maurer said the building’s owners have spent “millions” to upgrade amenities such as its fitness center and lobby since they purchased it.

Longtime tenants say they appreciate the improvements. Although its offices on the 22nd floor remain intact without a single paper out of place, investment advisers Woodley Farra Manion Portfolio Management Inc. had to find alternate space, just like everyone in the building. Co-founder Donald Woodley set up temporary shop in his own home for his eight employees.

The only snag came when Woodley Farra Manion moved its server, which immediately crashed. But thanks to a backup elsewhere, the inconvenience was temporary.

“I guess it didn’t like being jostled around,” Woodley said.

Now the company’s computers are on his dining room table. They’ll probably stay there for the next month or more. But like every other tenant IBJ reached last week, Woodley said he plans to return to One Indiana Square as soon as repairs are complete.

“Unless they’re going to tear the building down or it’s going to be a year, we’ll wait it out,” he said. “I can’t imagine going somewhere else.”

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