Thursday, March 12, 2009

Photos: Cosmo Burning

The canal side of the Cosmopolitan apartment complex almost completely burned to the ground this morning. As of this writing, the fire is not out at the center of the complex, but the Senate side still appears to be standing. News is reporting that 125 fire fighters were called to the scene at 3:30am.

See earlier photos of this project under construction here.


ahow628 said...

This is purely guesswork: investigators are going to find that the builders credit had completely dried up in the last few months. Suspicions are raised. In the coming weeks it turns out arson was the culprit. They arrest someone in connection with the arson. It will turn out that the arsonist has a relationship to the builder. Insurance won't pay up.

What a blaze...

thundermutt said...

Looks as if it started on the south leg of the building on the canal side.

I figure either a drunk tossed a lighted smoke over the fence along the canal (3am start time), or a homeless person broke into the site and built a little "keep warm" fire.

I just heard yesterday that the first move-ins would be in May.

Unknown said...

Excellent photos and reporting in such a timely manner!

Unknown said...

Great job on the reporting, and the photos...More information here than on the Indystar website!

ahow628 said...

"More information here than on the Indystar website!"

Yeah, but the comments aren't nearly as entertaining...

Donna Sink said...

Yep, excellent photos here, CorrND!

The 13 News segment I watched was making much of the inability to access the fire from the ground. Is it possible that the fire truck access lanes were not done properly (I can't imagine a code official would let that slip by), or did the fire initially block the only point of access?

I don't really know the plan well enough to speculate, but my fear is that some anti-city types may use this as an example of why "density is BAD!". Any thoughts?

Unknown said...

Wow. Thanks for the photos.
I do wonder if we'll see a rash of fires at construction sites for projects that are no longer viable in the current economy. But hopefully I'm just being overly pessimistic and this was just a random non-arson fire.

Anonymous said...

to add to Donna's comment, I too, worry about the anti density folks as well as the city development folks. With the downturn in construction the city plan reviewers have taken an increased interest in plan review (to protect jobs?). Thankfully there was no apparent loss of life but... this did appear to be a very large project to be built with that much wood frame construction. And it looks like the fire was well timed - before drywall fireprotection was in place. I am not sure how this works with Ahow's comment because there is little incentive for the builder to burn down what he had in place, better off to just walk away. I think thundermutt is closer to what might have happened.

thundermutt said...

Comments on the IBJ Property Lines blog suggest that drywalling was underway in the section that caught fire.

One poster suggested that portable heaters ("salamanders") were in use and might have been left on overnight to help dry and prevent freezing of the drywall mud.

Makes sense in one way, but incredibly stupid in another if the sprinkler system wasn't yet active.

ahow628 said...

Anon 12:38, if the builder walks away, he is out all the money expended up to that point. If he succeeds in committing arson and getting paid by the insurance company, he gets paid for everything lost which would be a significant sum for a project of that size.

Walk away example: expend $40M on what was initially a $50M structure, but now worth $30M due to economy. Walk away and lose $40M

Complete example: Same values as above except for complete instead of walk away, complete the project. Lose $10M ($40M in expenditures - $30M final value).

Burn down example: expend $40M on what was initially a $50M structure, but now worth $30M due to economy. Burn down and collect the $40M or 50M from insurance policy depending on how it was insured. Break even or even make some money.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for getting such captivating pics. I could almost see the window of my room from some of them...a true loss of momentum for improvements to downtown, but hopefully things turn around by '10. Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

Ahow misses some pretty important facts: The replacement cost of the lost improvements has not changed over the past few years; the insurance company will pay out on a claim only to replace the loss, and that will have to be proven; and there is no magic check made out to the developer in this case. There is also the threat of serious jail time and many witnesses that keep large organizations form thinking like Ahow seems to believe they would.

ahow628 said...

Anon 9:28, you assume that the policy covering the building only covers the replacement of the lost property. However, there are commercial policies that would cover lost future revenue as well. If that lost future revenue was a stated value (100 condos x $250k per condo for example) then you have to compare that amount to if the project had been completed adjusting for what real estate has done since this project was planned out two years ago (100 condos x $150k for example). When faced with taking a bath for that $100k difference per condo could be much more frightening and present than the idea of going to jail at some future date.

And as I mentioned before, the company could have creditors breathing down their necks and a lack of credit to continue the project. Once you are in a hole that deep, there are quite a few people who think the quickest way out is to keep on digging.

Messed up finances will make people do crazy things. But I'm sure we will get more information in the upcoming weeks.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know the plan well enough to speculate, but my fear is that some anti-city types may use this as an example of why "density is BAD!". Any thoughts?

to add to Donna's comment, I too, worry about the anti density folks as well as the city development folks.

I just found out about this website, pretty neat. Anyways, I would like to say that I am anti-density. Now, that doesn't make me anti-city. About a year ago, there was a house fire over in Ransom place. The home was a complete loss. The intensity of that fire was such that if there was not a fire service, the entire block, at a minimum, would have burned down. If the winds were strong and embers were blown onto other homes, the entire neighborhood could have been gone.

Packing _homes_ into small lots just is a dumb move. This is not anti-city because every time some high density housing development in the burbs has a fire, both neighboring homes end up having their sides catch fire too.

My point is that when we are talking apartment complexes and other high density living, we usually mandate sprinkler systems. When we look at homes, we don't even care about that. There should be a min. distance between homes or they should be required to have some sort of sprinkler system installed. I don't care if the system is 24/7 pressurized or not, maybe a system where a fire hose could be connected to a stand pipe outside?

If there is ever an economic or other kind of crash in this country, all one has to do is throw some matches in these high density developments full of plastic exteriors and wood frame interiors and watch entire city blocks burn hour after hour.

I spoke with a police officer who was working that night in the area. Said it looked like a volcano exploding. Said the flames were huge. Thankfully we have a great fire service because the whole north end of the canal might have burned to the ground.

Anonymous said...

I’m really confused; I thought this was going to be an apartment building. All of the people I know in the real-estate industry have been telling me that downtown apartments are doing pretty well right now. If that is the case why would the owners of this project want to burn it down? Construction on this project seemed to moving along quickly. Usually distressed projects grind to a halt and sit vacant before somebody decides to try and burn them down. I cannot see any reason why someone would commit such a heinous crime in this case. That being said, I also believe it is immoral to speculate publicly about people committing crimes with no basis in truth.

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone how rails against high density development always sound so condescending. I have always believed that kind of blowhard usually knows little of the subjects they speak about.

Donna Sink said...

Anon who doesn't like density: it all depends on construction type, which is why we have building codes and a project review system, which is what I questioned above.

Rowhouses, to name one dense housing typology, are built firewall-to-firewall, in other words, each solid masonry party wall between rowhouses acts as a firestop. It's not unusual to see a rowhouse burned while its neighbors, separated by 8" of brick, are untouched.

Similarly, highrise buildings have firestops at all floors and sprinkler systems too. Fires can be easily contained in dense developments, if the codes are followed and the systems are maintained.

Also, in your 5th sentence you state the weakness in your argument: if there were not a fire service. There is. We have amazing technology to limit the ability of a fire to burn unimpeded. Apparently the fire department's work at the Cosmo fire was swift and appropriate. If complete firestopping methods (drywall and sprinklers being huge) had been in place, this fire would never had been able to grow as quickly. Buildings under construction are exceptionally vulnerable top fire events.

Fires are rare, and, these days, so is open land on which to build houses "far apart".

Anonymous said...

Also, in your 5th sentence you state the weakness in your argument: if there were not a fire service. There is. We have amazing technology to limit the ability of a fire to burn unimpeded.

My main issue isn't that we don't have a great fire service, it is that what happens when we don't? Don't live in a fantasy world. Within the last 15 or so years, we have had issues in some cities where the fire service has been compromised.

LA Riots--tons of buildings burned to the ground because of the danger from rioters, some armed. The firefighters couldn't get to these areas until the rioters had left. The same applies for the riots that occurred in Benton Harbor and Toledo.

I wouldn't say I am anti-density or anti-urban, I just feel that if we are going to pack single properties together (ie: Single homes/condos) they should have the same requirements as most apartment and hotel buildings..a working sprinkler system. I just remember how that one single home fire over in Ransom Place would have easily burned down the entire block of homes, if not the entire neighborhood. We take our fire service for granted, and we shouldn't.

I know, I know, the likely hood of a fire service not being there is slim to none, but it will happen again, somewhere. If we hit a full economic depression, things could get very ugly. Just so you know how bad things with the fire service can get: During this fire, IUPUI had a fire alarm. IFD could not respond at all. It took a much longer time for a fire department to respond and that responding company was Wayne Township.

I just think that we should require sprinkler systems in high density single family dwellings regardless of where they are built.