The basement of Plaza Towers Apartments in downtown Grand Rapids was flooded after record-setting rains raised the Grand River. Photo by Mike Nichols
The second-tallest building in Grand Rapids is dealing with some of the worst flooding in the city.
Record-setting flooding of the Grand River this weekend forced residents and tenants to evacuate from Plaza Towers Apartments and Courtyard Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday morning.
"We evacuated our residents and tenants this morning out of an abundance of caution due to the rising waters of the Grand River and the potential impact of the flooding on the building. Our first priority is the security and safety of the people who live and work in Plaza Towers,” said Paul Heule, president of Eenhoorn. “We are working around the clock to assess the damage and develop a plan to get residents back into their homes and allow the hotel to resume serving its guests.
"We also have doubled our security in the building, and Plaza Towers remains secure," he said. "We are proud of our staff and thankful to the city, police and fire professionals for helping us grapple with this historic and unprecedented event."
About five feet of water came up over the building’s basement concrete and flooded the parking garage.
The power to the building was shut off, and Mayor George Heartwell declared the city in a state of emergency.
The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the JW Marriott hotel also dealt with basement flooding.
Monday morning, engineers estimated that another 1.3 million gallons of water would need to be pumped from the parking garage and basement.
The National Weather Service is calling for more rain tomorrow, however, which could hamper the cleanup.
For now, officials still have no answer on when residents can go home, but they have been advised to call their insurance companies.
“We will not be able to answer this until the water stops flowing, the water is removed and the engineering team can assess the damage," Heule said. "More than 1.6 million gallons of water flowed into the area. At this moment, we know of 24 vehicles that were damaged in the parking garage.”
The Plaza Towers security staff will be emptying all the building’s refrigerators to keep food from spoiling. Staff will take a photo of each refrigerator’s contents before emptying them.
Chris Knape, a spokesperson for Eenhoorn, said this event was something “completely unprecedented and historic for the building.”
The first priority for Plaza Towers officials was to make sure residents, many of whom stayed with friends and family, would be safe, he said.
“It’s kind of a mix. Some people chose to go with friends and family, others chose hotel rooms,” Knape said. “From what we’ve been able to tell, our residents have all found temporary places. The first priority was to take care of the residents and make sure they’re secure, and our next priority is to get the water out and to get building up and running again.”
Assistance is available for residents by contacting The Heart of West Michigan United Way’s emergency number 211.
Officials are keeping residents informed on the Plaza Towers Facebook page.
Residents also can call Plaza Towers Security at (616) 242-6602 or (616) 774-6625.
It’s been three days since Plaza Towers residents have been evacuated from their homes, and officials still have no time line yet on when they will be able to.
“At this moment, we have been advised by the city’s engineering department and our independent engineers to slow our water removal efforts until the Grand River begins to recede,” according to a Plaza Towers statement. “As the river recedes, we will be able to reassess the situation to provide a more accurate estimate for re-entry to the building for residents and/or business use. This is expected to take several more days.”
Spokesperson Knape said residents will be given a rent credit for the days they are unable to occupy their units as part of their May lease payments.
Knape also said the staff plans to throw away all items from the building’s refrigerators to avoid food spoilage. Residents will be compensated for this, he said, but the details are still being worked out.
Knape said officials have no answers yet on how much the water removal, rent credits and refrigerator compensations would cost.
“We have no idea how much money it’s going to be total. The bottom line will be determined by the number of days the people are gone,” he said. “We’re doing this, because it’s the right thing to do, and we’re not spending all our time typing numbers on a calculator.”