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The Millennium Tower opened to great fanfare in 2009, but it has sunk 18 inches into the soft downtown soil — and it’s tilting, its current engineer says

A dozen years later, it’s still promoted “Your city within the city,” a 58-story monolith with more than 400 multimillion-dollar units in San Francisco’s tallest residential building.
“It was billed as one of the top 10 most luxurious buildings in the world,” former Millennium resident Frank Jernigan recalled.
But, since it opened, the hulking blue-gray tower has sunk 18 inches into the soft downtown soil on which it was built — and it’s tilting, according to the Millennium’s current engineer, Ronald Hamburger.
Now, amid reports suggesting the deadly collapse of the Champlain Towers South more than 3,000 miles away in Surfside, Florida, began in the building’s lower reaches, questions are being raised about the Bay Area tower’s structural integrity.
“When you have a high rise that collapses and you had a situation in San Francisco — we had a high rise that was sinking and tilting — it affects people’s peace of mind,” said attorney Niall McCarthy. He represented about 100 Millennium Tower residents who reached a mediated settlement in 2020 with developers and others to a lawsuit claiming their property values plummeted with news of the sinking.

Millennium engineer: Surfside comparisons ‘reckless and premature’

Hamburger, who has monitored the settlements of the Millennium Tower and evaluated their effect on the structure since 2014, told CNN in a statement that the building was designed for earthquake resistance, remains safe and is not at risk of collapse.
“The collapse of the residential building in Surfside … was tragic, but it is far too early to speculate about what caused that disaster — and any potential comparisons with Millennium Tower would be reckless and premature,” Hamburger said.
“Millennium Tower was designed to stringent earthquake resistance standards and is a much tougher form of construction than typical buildings in Florida, which are not required to be designed for earthquake resistance,” he added. “I can state with confidence that settlements experienced by Millennium Tower have not compromised its stability and safety.”
A $ 100 million fix, set to be completed next year, involves the installation of piles into the bedrock of downtown San Francisco beneath the building, according to Millennium spokesman Doug Elmets. The piles will then be tied to the existing foundation, he said.
The retrofit, announced in October following years of lawsuits, hearings and accusations, will finally anchor the building to the bedrock. The original foundation was built into deep sand and experts determined that nearby projects and a process known as dewatering had weakened the soil under the sinking tower.
“The structural upgrade currently underway at the tower is intended to prevent further settlement, and recover some of the building’s tilt, rather than to repair damage or provide strengthening,” Hamburger said in the statement. “The building remains safe and is in no danger of collapse.”

Surfside collapse may have begun in building’s lower reaches

In Florida, at least 24 people are dead and dozens are unaccounted for after the residential building partially collapsed last Thursday. Search and rescue teams had worked feverishly to locate missing residents until efforts were temporarily halted Thursday amid structural concerns about parts of the building that remain standing. Those efforts resumed Thursday evening.
Several engineers have told CNN that video of the collapse suggests the failure began near the structure’s foundation, and a 2018 survey prepared ahead of the building’s mandated 40-year certification cited problems in the pool area and the garage beneath it.
Resident Sara Nir, who was in her ground floor condo at Champlain Towers South with her two children the night of the collapse, said she heard loud knocking sounds followed by a boom. She said ran toward the sound and witnessed the building’s underground garage collapse.
The cause of the collapse is still unknown.
The surviving members of the Champlain Towers South condo association issued a statement Friday saying, “We know that answers will take time as part of a comprehensive investigation and we will continue to work with city, state, local, and federal officials in their rescue efforts, and to understand the causes of this tragedy.”

‘It was a really wonderful place to live’

“These people were lying in bed comfortably at night with no warning whatsoever,” former Millennium resident Jernigan said of the Surfside catastrophe. “It’s a horrendous thing for the families to be going through now. And our hearts just go out.”
Jernigan, a retired software engineer, and Andrew Faulk, a retired physician, paid more than $ 4 million in 2011 for their condo on the 50th floor of the Millennial.
Years later Jernigan and Faulk learned the highrise was not only sinking but also tilting. In 2016, they recorded a heavily watched online video titled, “Marble roll in Millennium Tower.”
“It was the very first time we did it,” Jernigan said of the experiment. “He got the marble out and I’m going to roll this and see what it does.”
In the video, aimed at demonstrating the infamous tilt, the marble was rolled on a hardwood floor but it then changed directions.
“Rolls about 10 feet out,” Jernigan, who shot the video, said of the marble’s trajectory. “Slows to a stop and then turns around and starts rolling back and picks up speed as it goes past him.”
“In the direction that the building is leaning,” Faulk interjected. “And so, it was like, ‘Oh my God.'”
In 2017, CBS’s “60 Minutes” called a segment on the Millennium “The Leaning Tower of San Francisco,” and showed alarming stress gauges and cracks in the building’s foundation.
Jernigan and Faulk sold their two Millennium units in 2017 for what the former software engineer called “earthquake sale prices.”
“It was a really wonderful place to live and, of course, we didn’t know it when we were moving in, but there were also wonderful people that lived there,” Jernigan said.
Amenities in the building included a barrel shaped wine locker, a private movie theater, and a sprawling outdoor terrace with a marble fireplace and waterfall overlooking the indoor Olympic-sized pool.
Jernigan and Faulk, of course, will not be around with their friends and onetime neighbors for the completion of the Millennium’s fix in late 2022. They have moved to another condo complex.
“We did what we had to do to get peace of mind,” Jernigan said.
Faulk added, “We got our suitcases … put everything in …. and we left.”

Author: Dan Simon, Julia Jones and Ray Sanchez, CNN
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BREAKING: 25-year-old man killed in downtown Austin mass shooting

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 25-year-old man has died after being injured in a mass shooting attack Saturday morning on downtown Austin’s 6th Street, according to the Austin Police Department.

Douglas John Kantor, 25, died from his injuries at an Austin hospital Sunday at 12:01 p.m., police say.

The shooting left at least 14 people hurt early Saturday morning in the 400 block of East 6th Street. Police say one juvenile suspect is in custody. Another suspect is still at-large.

During a briefing, Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon said 11 people were receiving treatment at one hospital, while one victim went to a separate hospital, another received treatment at an emergency room and another self-transported from Austin’s busy strip of bars on 6th Street.

Chacon said most of the victims were innocent bystanders.

“Everything was totally fine,” witness Matt Perlstein said. “… there were just so many people in the street. And we just heard like, nine — a bunch — gunshots going off. Everyone got on the ground. We couldn’t even comprehend what was going on at the time. It’s still difficult to comprehend.”

APD is encouraging anyone in the community seeking support as a result of this event to contact Austin Police Department Victim Services at 512-974-5037.

Anyone with information or video of what happened is asked to call APD Homicide at 512-974-TIPS.

This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

Author: Andrew Schnitker
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

'Surreal': 6th Street mass shooting witnesses describe the moment shots fired in downtown Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It began like any other night on Austin’s world-famous 6th Street: music blaring as partygoers crowded the sidewalks and bars — then the gunshots sounded.

It happened just before 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning at 400 E. 6th Street, near Trinity Street, where at least 13 people were injured after a suspect opened fire in the heart of Austin’s entertainment district.

“Everything was totally fine,” witness Matt Perlstein said. “… there were just so many people in the street. And we just heard like, nine — a bunch — gunshots going off. Everyone got on the ground. We couldn’t even comprehend what was going on at the time. It’s still difficult to comprehend.”

David Frost was also on East 6th, out for a night of fun with his cousin. He said the chaos happened just as bars were closing up for the night.

“We’re all going outside,” said Frost. “Nobody knew anything was going on until the cops were like, ‘Hey get off the street… this is an active crime scene, go to your cars immediately and get out of the streets.’

Frost said the shots were hard to hear from his vantage point, where typical Friday night noise — music and crowds — drowned out the mania.

“When you come out and you see the people, the cops putting up the crime scene tape, you know, it kind of hits close to home,” Frost said. “… it’s kind of surreal.”

While there were no fatalities, at least two of the 13 victims injured are in critical condition.

Meanwhile, Austin police are still searching for the suspected gunman: described as a Black man with a thin frame and locs-style hair.

Frost said this wasn’t the first shooting he’d seen on 6th Street and that it likely wouldn’t be the last. And not enough to keep him from visiting again.

Meanwhile, Perlstein said he’d feel more comfortable if changes were made.

“It would be nice to know that this will not happen in the future,” he said. “And that the police or whatever authorities in charge will make sure that something like this can’t happen.”

APD investigates deadly downtown shooting

SWISS ALP, Texas (KXAN) — People in parts of Fayette County were left with trees and tree debris to clean up on Wednesday after a tornado was spotted around 7 o’clock Tuesday evening.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office said there were no reports of significant damage, but we noticed a tree down along FM 609 in the O’Quinn area with more in the way of tree damage in Swiss Alp.

Charles Aschenbeck helps to maintain the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Swiss Alp, and he had to use plywood to cover up some of the damage to the church from Tuesday’s storms.

“Apparently something came through, because we have a broken or blown out window here in the church. It seems like, we’ve been here 14 years, there’s been at least three incidences of really high winds and tornado activity,” said Aschenbeck.

Where he lives, the storm was more of a rain maker than a wind event.

“It was pretty strong, we live in Schulenburg, and I was watching the rainfall gauge, and in 20 minutes time we had an inch and a quarter in just 20 minutes. I only had a total of 2.8 inches, but they were saying they had somewhere up to 5 inches out here,” he added.

While the damage in Swiss Alp wasn’t particularly devastating for most, he’s got some work on his hands.

“It’s going to be kind of hard to replace. Some of the wood pieces that were in the center of that window are all torn up, so I don’t know,” said Aschenbeck.

This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

George Floyd mural in downtown Houston vandalized with racial slur

Author Chauncy Glover

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A racial slur was spray painted over a popular mural of George Floyd in downtown Houston on Thursday.Someone wrote the words, “N***** lives don’t matter” across the mural located on Chartres and Bell Streets.

The mural was created shortly after Floyd died when he was pinned under former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee last May. Eyewitness News has learned the Houston Police Department is investigating the incident.The artist behind the painting has since covered up the slurs and restored the drawing.

Investigators told ABC13 there are no surveillance cameras in the area that they’re aware of to help with their investigation.

The mural, which is located a couple of miles from where Floyd grew up in Third Ward, has become a popular place for people to take photos.

Across the country, the murder conviction of Chauvin has renewed calls for policing reforms and legislative action to address long-standing racial inequities.Follow Chauncy Glover on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This is a developing story. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Austin is still seeing pandemic-era vacancies downtown — why that may change this summer

Author Tahera Rahman
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Austin is still seeing pandemic-era vacancies downtown

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The pandemic’s economic impact translated to closed-up storefronts in a usually thriving downtown area.

The Downtown Austin Alliance compiled data showing just how much downtown businesses suffered.

The alliance said as of February, about 20-25% of downtown storefront businesses are seemingly empty.

“88 storefronts have reportedly closed, and another 96 storefront businesses we’re unsure about,” said Jenell Moffett, Downtown Austin Alliance Director of Research and Analysis, during Wednesday’s report presentation.

Visits to the office also dropped dramatically during the pandemic.

“Downtown office visits dropped by almost 90% in April. As restrictions changed, we’ve seen an uptick of employees returning… however, we’re still well below pre-pandemic levels,” Moffett said.

Employers also put discussions on pause about what work would look like post-pandemic and vacancies nearly doubled throughout 2020.

“Many were hesitant to lock down terms for office space. Subsequently, vacancy rates increased as well,” Moffett said.

But empty storefronts don’t necessarily reflect the future of downtown, which the alliance said is poised for a rebound.

John Gump, Austin executive vice president of CBRE, a global commercial real estate company, said the demand for office space right now is about the same as what it was before the pandemic.

“It feels like we’re back full steam ahead,” Gump said.

He said they’re tracking more than 2 million square feet of demand — tenants who are actively either looking for a new space or to move from an existing space.

“It will translate into deals, it will translate into decreased vacancy rates, increased absorption of space, probably towards the end of the second quarter, beginning of the third quarter and definitely into the fourth quarter,” Gump said.

Why the demand?

Gump said more companies from the east and west coasts are moving to Austin, and businesses already here are either looking for more space or a different space as they shift to hybrid working.

“‘Look, if we’re going to take a little less space, we might as well make sure that the space that we do take really is suited well for our needs, and we’re willing to pay a little more for it,” Gump explained.

The Downtown Austin Alliance said five towers are set to open this year that will deliver more than 1.5 million square feet of office space. They said that would break all previous yearly records for Austin.

Gump said he’s already seeing a lot of demand for those spots.

VIDEO: Fire spreads to historic firefighter drill tower in downtown Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A fire near the old drill tower[1] for the Austin Fire Department spread to the tower itself on West Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin Thursday night.

The Buford Tower was built in the 1930s, according to the Texas State Historical Association[2], and stands about 67 feet tall. Originally called “The Old Fireman’s Practice Tower,” TSHA says it was used as a training facility for local firefighters.

As of 9:30 p.m., AFD says the fire is under control, and the damage is mostly on the outside and windows. The department says the fire was a homeless camp fire.

  • Fire from homeless camp spreads to historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)
  • What's left after fire from homeless camp spreads to Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)
  • Fire from homeless camp spreads to historic Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN/Tim Holcomb)
  • What's left after fire from homeless camp spreads to Buford Tower in downtown Austin (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)

TSHA says while the tower was used for many decades, by the 1970s it became unsafe to set fires for training due to the city’s growth.

The tower was dedicated in 1978[4] and named for AFD veteran Capt. James L. Buford, who died about six years earlier trying to rescue a teen who ended up drowning in flood waters from Shoal Creek, according to AFD.

Effie Kitchens, whose husband was involved in the tower’s original construction, and community volunteers helped to restore the building after it was no longer being used, TSHA says.

The building now serves as a bell tower and is used in the department’s 9/11 memorial ceremonies, AFD says.

Jaclyn Ramkissoon