Shortly after an online morning meeting on Aug. 12, Puja Ramaswamy heard bricks falling from the roof of the Chicago three-flat residential building she and her family live in. Between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., 1227 W. Jackson Boulevard in the city's West Loop neighborhood was evacuated. Shortly after, the entire structure, built in the 19th century, shifted and was saved from complete collapse only by leaning on its neighbor, 1241 W. Jackson.

“We could have been on the patio,” Ramaswamy told ENR, who left the premises with her husband and is staying with friends in the neighborhood. She also said she was glad the couple's two children were in school at the time, as they often play outside.

In a statement, Mimi Simon, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Dept. of Buildings, said, “The building owner was completing a full gut rehab without any plans or permits. While performing work in the basement, the foundation was compromised causing the collapse. DOB will hold the building owner accountable and will ensure the building and the surrounding area are secured and kept safe.”

Responding crews from utility People's Gas were able to safely shut off gas service to the building by 2:30 pm. Chicago Fire Dept. and Police Dept. emergency responders assisted in evacuating tenants.

The building was originally constructed in 1879, around the time most three-flat structures in the city date, and is owned by Mariusz Florek, according to a 2018 property tax assessment appeal on file with the Cook County, Ill., Assessor's office. The residential building was scheduled for a reassessment later this year. Simon referred questions relating to a demolition plan to the owner, who could not be reached for comment.

One detail from the assessment appeal shows how much the West Loop neighborhood has changed: it was originally zoned as industrial, but is now one of the city's hottest housing markets, with the condo structure against which the partially collapsed building now leans, being one of many newer constructions in the area.