More than six months after the huge CityPlace fire in Overland Park, neighbors whose homes close to the development were damaged complain about insurance delays while others try to rebuild.
“It’s been a hassle, an absolute hassle,” said Jim Trometer, whose roof, deck and siding were scorched by wind-blown embers from the March 20 inferno at the CityPlace apartment construction site near College Boulevard and U.S. 69. More than 25 residences were damaged, including 14 units that were destroyed or deemed uninhabitable by Overland Park city officials.
Two CityPlace buildings caught fire and had to be demolished. Construction has just recently begun anew, and the wood framing is going up. But this time there will be no “hot welding.”
“Block will no longer be allowing any ‘hot’ work on site for wood-framed construction projects,” said Laurie Roberts, a spokeswoman for Block Multifamily Group. “The alternatives will be to weld off site, use mechanically fastened joints that do not require welding, or change materials to avoid needing to weld.”
CityPlace is a $450 million mixed-use development that involves apartment buildings, retail and offices. Roberts said the two buildings under construction that were destroyed in the fire, with a total of 69 units, should be rebuilt by next July or August. No more apartment buildings are planned, but as many as four Class A office buildings could come in the future.
Trometer lives on West 115th Terrace in the College Park Estates neighborhood. He was home when the fire erupted, and his Belgian sheepdog, Baron, alerted him to escape. He says his home sustained more than $28,000 in damage, but his insurance company, Travelers, was slow to approve repairs and still hasn’t approved payment for certain costs, such as a full house repainting job to cover all the scorch marks and replacement of his damaged deck furniture and grill. He estimated he was owed more than $5,000 in damages that Travelers hadn’t approved.
Nationwide was the insurer for the CityPlace contractor, Titan Construction, so it would ultimately be responsible for covering the damages. Trometer has also made four calls since March to Nationwide, but says he wasn’t getting his concerns addressed.
Representatives of Nationwide and Travelers told The Star they were investigating but couldn’t comment on open claims.
Brian Hunter’s house on 115th Place sustained $20,000 in damages from embers that burned the roof, fence and patio furniture. Hunter said his insurance company paid for the damage but he’s still waiting for his $1,500 deductible to be reimbursed, possibly from Nationwide, but insurance company lawyers are involved and it hasn’t been resolved. He and his family subsequently sold their home and moved to Spring Hill, but he’s still frustrated.
“I didn’t start the fire, and I’m not happy that months later I’m still out my money,” he said.
Several other homeowners who had to find alternate lodgings while their homes were rebuilt also told The Star they’ve been frustrated at the pace of repairs and insurance settlements. But they said they didn’t want to speak publicly until their claims are resolved.
Ken Block, managing partner with Block Real Estate Services, said that after the fire, he and others created a special fund called Block Cares Fire Relief Fund, administered by the Salvation Army of Kansas and Western Missouri, to help residents who were underinsured or had other difficulties.
More than $34,000 has already been paid out to people for insurance deductibles, mortgage payments and other assistance, according to Joyce Schau, the Salvation Army’s divisional social services director. More funding is available.
“I still have funds and I can still help,” Schau said.
Trometer said he would look into that. Hunter said he thought the money should go to those with greater needs than his.
An Overland Park city official was sympathetic to the frustration with both slow home repairs and insurance concerns, but he said progress on nearly all the properties that were damaged is underway in earnest now.
“I would say overall, with the magnitude of the destruction we had, I think this (the neighborhood repairs) is moving along very quickly,” said Tim Ryan, codes administrator for Overland Park. “Some of them got started pretty slowly but right now everybody is moving along at a good pace.”
Ryan updated the Overland Park City Council on Oct. 2. He explained that residents of two of the destroyed units on West 115th Street chose to settle with their insurance companies, move and sell their properties. Those units were demolished and city staff is working with the new owners on their rebuild plans. Two other units that were severely damaged are now being rebuilt and should be finished by next April. The rest of the affected homes, Ryan said, should be fixed by the end of this year.