THE RIVIERA PIER DISASTER
They fixed the outside of the Riviera Pier Complex for around two and a half million borrowed dollars. The cheap look of the roof tiles was, once again, explained away in the same fashion: “That’s how it was when they built it over one hundred years ago.”
The rest of the redevelopment project, sort of an “if it ain’t fixed, don’t break it,” kind of an approach, began the final run for daylight on Monday, with the first meeting of the new committee, chaired by the Mayor, to decide when, how and, in what order, to fix the mess that has been the interior of the building since the eighties. Tom Earle, of the street department (actually department of public works), did most of the talking. His claim that all he does is speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may, was as old hat as was the rest of so many things he had to say. The committee sat dumb, occasionally mumbling something about the historical society or maybe about MSI, Tom’s favorite sub-contractor. Oh, sorry. Tom also allegedly has no skin in that game as he is totally objective and without relationships in the business, he’s worked in all his life. DPW just does what it is told, except of course for obviously and blatantly favoring things like moving the municipal pier, closing off Wrigley Drive, and so on. The report of gloom is as follows, about the interior of the building:
1. The electrical system is so shot that water cascades down upon and through the entire room where it is set up, to the tune of six inches of water after any heavy rain.
2. The Otis elevator, the only means of getting to the second floor for disabled people or people that are unable to use stairs, fails often. The Mayor has been called in the middle of the night because of people trapped in that small cage.
3. The twin concrete front stairs on the north side are not only pulling away from the main structure, but they cannot be properly de-iced in winter when things like Winterfest are going on. The area just down in front has only two-inch pipes to get rid of water, which means flooding every summer and unbreakable sheets of ice in winter.
4. The expensively redone bathrooms downstairs cannot be used by the public when the Riviera interior is closed because there exists no way from keeping people from accessing the rest of the building during off-hours.
5. The pier-side west corner stairs, built to serve only as an emergency fire escape, hold up that entire corner of the building and are giving a sign that they cannot continue to do so. According to Earle, this is the condition of the building and that the committee, and then the city council, is going to have to budget and deal with very soon. Additionally, there is no money coming in from events that were planned to pay back the loans. COVID19 hit, and POW, out one of the replaced windows. There’s video surveillance that needs to be installed, to report to the police department so that kids like they’ve been doing, can’t climb around the fences of the building at night and go out on the piers (where the Gage Marine boats are moored) and party the night away.
The Driehaus Fountain figurine was taken down and damaged by someone earlier last month and it’s going to take ten thousand to fix (according to Earle), and that would have been stopped quickly if there had been proper video.
The piers that the complex is built upon were checked, because the whole thing is built on wooden pilings, and those have never been replaced. Divers were sent down last year to see how the wood was aging after more than a hundred years. The divers discovered that the entire foundation is surrounded by a brick wall and the interior, where the pilings thrust up, is filled with sand. The divers concluded that the pilings must be okay so the walls around the Rivera foundations were tuck-pointed to make sure they remained healthy under the water.
How much more can be said about the Riviera?
MSI, the general contractor that did the work, can, as part of the contract, also bill the city hourly for all the work it did “learning” the building over the course of two years. They can do this if the city does not move forward with MSI as the contractor, and they can do it by the deadline of August 17, 2020. Tom Earle and the city attorney both said that the deadline cannot be met, but that they didn’t think MSI would follow through to collect that money. Like the rest of the complex itself, the thinking swirling around the decaying structure is a developing and fully significant disaster.