Crossroads building collapse raises questions, leaves residents displaced

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A building collapse in the Crossroads District leaves at least two people without a home, and questions about why exactly it fell apart.

The building at the corner of E. 18th St. and Locust is what some might call an eyesore before, and after the collapse. However, two metro men called it home. They say it's always been a work in progress, but what they didn't know is according to Kansas City, Missouri's Office of Planning and Development, there were no permits allowing them to live there. Nor for the construction they say they saw and heard all around them.

Kansas City's Crossroads District is always changing, always moving, always artistic. Old buildings are turned new, and new businesses embrace the district's history. A perfect space for the city's young and creative.

"I found this apartment on Craigslist," Matthew Crilly said. "It was advertised just like any other apartment in the housing wanted section.'

Crilly loved the character of the loft he found at E. 18th & Locust.

"I was actually the first one to see it, and there were nine appointments lined up, so I just went ahead and got it on the spot," Crilly said.

He told his friend Connor Maguire about the second unit, and the men enjoyed being neighbors. The men thought they found their home in a prime location int he center of the Crossroads.

"I wanted to make that place my home," Maguire said. "I've lived in Kansas City for two years, and I've moved around several times, and I thought that I was ready to invest in that place."

Jackson County sale records show a company called 500 E. 18th Street LLC bought the building at the end of March. Missouri's state records show the building is owned by construction lawyer Jody Gondering, with Mark K. Abbott listed as it's registered agent. The website for Abbott Properties shows the company is involved in many projects in the Crossroads. Abbott Properties, headed by primary partner, Matt Abbott, appears to have a sold foundation in the city.

Then the collapse happened. On the morning of October 6, the floor fell out of Maguire's apartment. He says he's grateful to be alive. Both Maguire and Crilly were out of town at the time of the collapse. Crilly woke up to a voicemail from an Abbott Properties representative who said there had been "a little bit of a situation" in his building. Maguire woke up to people wondering if he was alive.

Artist, Oliver Wright, painted his "Squidanda" mural on the side of the building for the SPRASEEMO festival three weeks before the collapse. It was mostly destroyed in the collapse, but he hopes what's left will be incorporated if the building is rebuilt.

"It was a little heartbreaking," Wright said. "After you put a labor of love into something like a mural of this size. They don`t know for sure what happened, but I think with all the rain that happened, it just- and the construction - created a perfect storm."

The building was nearly 100 years old, and tenants say work crews were making changes.

"When I moved in it was quiet," Maguire said. "There wasn't really a lot going on, but over the first month there started to definitely be construction. I noticed a lot of people in and out of the building downstairs, and upstairs."

"I saw that there was a big dumpster in the lower level," Crilly said. "They had the garage door open over here to my left, and they had a bobcat in there. I don`t know exactly what they were doing, but they were loading dirt or something."

Crilly says most days, crews were in the building and he saw them replacing electrical and adding heating and air conditioning. All things you would need city permits for. FOX4 Problem Solvers checked with Kansas City's Planning and Development Department. A plans examiner explained the building had no current approved permits for construction on the building itself, and hadn't had any since the purchase of the building.

However, they did tell FOX4 about one denied permit. A department representative told Problem Solvers a company called Crossroads East, also owned by Gondering, and branded online as "an Abbot Properties Development" applied for the permit near the end of September - before the collapse. The name on the permit - Craig Donnell, who is listed as the Master Electrician on the Abbott Properties website.

The application indicated it was for electrical work on a project entitled "The Galleria," to put in individually metered electrical units in the building. The city denied it. The examiner said while the building is zoned for residential use the company had no permit to let anyone live there. According to the examiner, a company would need the building to both be zoned and permitted for both - which means Crilly and Maguire shouldn't have been living there. The examiner responded to the company saying if they could prove residents were legally allowed to live there they would approve the permit.

"I was just surprised, honestly," Crilly said. "It was never brought up during the application process, and I was just surprised to find out that they didn't have the proper permits for us to be living here."

Both men say they rented their apartments through 500 E. 18th St. LLC, and their electricity costs were included with the rent. After the collapse, both are staying with friends and family, and say Abbott Properties hasn't been much help. Maguire lost all his belongings, and Crilly only had about five minutes to gather a few of his things.

"They tried to cash my rent check for the month," Crilly said.

FOX4 reached out to Abbott Properties, and Gondering's law firm of Hennesy & Gondering P.A. After scheduling an interview with Abbott Properties they rescheduled, and then cancelled the interview when FOX4 declined to provide them our questions ahead of the meeting. We reached out again for an interview through the investigation process and Abbott Properties formally declined. FOX4 asked for a statement, but one was never sent. Gondering's firm never responded to our request.

"I definitely don't have a bed," Maguire said looking up at where his apartment once was. "That's definitely gone, but I have myself. Every time I get sad I remember that I have myself, and that's what's important."

They also say, while a loft or apartment might seem cool, from now on they will take the extra effort to make sure it's legal.

"It may be an awesome location," Crilly said. "It may have a ton of character, but apparently things like this do happen, so think twice when you're thinking about renting an older building."

The men filed a complaint with the city, and they are looking into it. If the city finds work was done without a permit the owners could face a fine. The examiner with the city planning and development department says their office is not aware of any projects in the work for the building.