A wall joining two North Broad Street apartment buildings collapsed last Monday at 1:10 a.m., forcing 10 students into emergency university housing. No one was hurt.
The students have all been relocated to various locations around campus, according to Captain Eileen Bradley of Campus Safety Services.
“The whole apartment shook,” Bilal Haider, a math major and displaced tenant said. “We didn’t know what happened until the doorbell rang 20 minutes later and it was the fire department.”
The apartments were next to Zavelle’s bookstore at 1522 and 1524 N. Broad St. They are owned by Harold Metzger, who does not rent through the University’s off-campus housing department.
Metzger has agreed to refund the students affected by the collapse for the rest of the semester, though an extensive remodeling effort will prevent them from living in the building again.
“It was an accident,” Metzger said. “You get in a car and have an accident. That’s what happened to me. It was a disaster.”
The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections reported that both buildings were affected differently by the collapse. At 1522, a fourth floor apartment’s floor crashed into the space below, damaging rear sections of the walls in the fourth, third and second floor apartments. A portion of the roof was also destroyed.
At 1524, similar damage took place, but in addition to roof, wall and floor damage, the collapse affected the building’s facade, and left a rear wall leaning approximately 2 inches. The incident also left the second and third floor walls in both buildings in danger of collapse.
The buildings have been demolished since the collapse. In the long term, Metzger plans a complete renovation.
“I’m going to remodel the whole building,” Metzger said. “They’re going to be bigger, nicer, with all new things. They’re 30-year-old apartments now.”
Because of an already strained housing situation on campus, the affected students were not relocated together. According to Bradley, some were placed at the Triangle Apartment Complex, located at North Broad and Norris streets. Others sought housing with friends around campus.
“I made sure students had meals from the University,” Bradley said. “We also made sure the hospital provided them with emergency kits, with toiletries.”
The properties at 1522 and 1524 N. Broad St. were not part of the University’s off-campus housing listings, but their location near campus prompted immediate action from Campus Safety.
“Temple really helped us out,” Haider said. “But I think it’s because they kicked us off campus last year.”
Metzger and his properties have no ties with the University. According to Lisa Prestileo, coordinator of off-campus housing, Metzger, who also goes by the alias Hank Metz, has tried to be listed with the off-campus housing department for years.
“All of his properties are sub-standard,” Prestileo said. “He is one of the shadiest slum landlords I have ever dealt with.”
Prior to the incident, the properties had been listed as “imminently dangerous.” Metzger owns many of the apartments in the surrounding area, and prior to the accident, all were in conditions similar to 1522 and 1524.
According to Haider, Temple plans on hiring legal counsel to represent the tenants. Haider will not take action unless Metzger refuses to return his security deposit.
“He still has our security deposit, which is two months’ rent … $1600,” Haider said. “He also still has my rent from last month.”
Metzger said he had no idea that the buildings were “imminently dangerous,”.
According to tax records for the property, the building’s exterior condition was below average. Records also revealed more than $9,300 in back taxes on the two properties combined, dating back to 1999.
Christopher Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.