Eight years ago, John Verstraete bought a West Plaza building in anticipation of the opening of a new office, hotel and retail complex that broke ground across the street that same year. He expected it would bring new traffic to the area.
But he says his investment, a medical spa called House of Elan, has turned into an eight-year “nightmare.” Although his troubles didn’t get as much attention as JJ’s restaurant next door, Verstraete also had to watch the construction of the West Edge complex, its demolition and then reconstruction of the yet-to-open Plaza Vista. He, too, worried about falling debris and lack of parking caused by the project.
Now the House of Elan building at 906 W. 48th St., heavily damaged from Tuesday’s explosion, may be beyond repair.
Verstraete sneaked inside Wednesday afternoon, hoping to grab his employees’ keys, purses, cell phones and keepsakes — all left behind as they fled the building Tuesday just before the explosion. But officials asked him to leave before he could pack up anything.
“The whole construction across the street has been a nightmare for Jimmy and me,” he said, referring to JJ’s co-founder Jimmy Frantze. “We’ve been fighting this safety issue ever since this started.”
House of Elan is just across a tiny alley from JJ’s. Verstraete turned the 25,000-square-foot building into a showplace for his medical salon and spa, which offered everything from Botox to facials. Five years ago he moved his medical offices to the building.
Now the businesses — and their 15 employees — will have to relocate.
“I’ve been getting calls all day today. I can still call prescriptions in,” Verstraete said Wednesday. “A couple of places are offering us free space, but I have to find out if my building is salvageable. I have no idea where we are going to go.”