91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Where "the elevators are out" could be a matter of life or death

Sarah McChristian, a former singer and social worker, at her Towne Centre Place apt.

Update: 11:37 a.m., August 15

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Kevin Elsenheimer issued the following press release over the weekend related to broken elevators at Towne Centre Place in Ypsilanti: 

When we were contacted by reporters on Friday afternoon regarding this matter, we immediately sent staff to the property and determined that one elevator was operating properly, and that the parts needed to repair the larger elevator were in route. I was personally onsite this Sunday afternoon meeting with residents and confirmed that after working throughout the weekend Otis Elevators has completed the repairs to the second elevator. I rode the elevator and it is functioning properly. MSHDA is working with the owners of Towne Centre Place to explore ways to improve the mechanical service at the apartments and address other concerns of the residents.

Original Post: Friday, August 12

Residents of Towne Centre Place in Ypsilanti are fed up.

For the past year, people living in the 11-story apartment complex for disabled and elderly residents have had to stay home for up to half a day at a time, sometimes several times a week, because the elevators stopped working -- or else brave the stairs and hope the elevators are working again when they get back home.

79-year old Sarah McChristian lives on the 11th floor.  She has arthritis, but says if necessary, she can walk down 11 flights, and even walk back up -- with lots of stops on the way to catch her breath.

"My heart just goes out to the people who can't walk down the stairs," says McChristian, "and I know that it could be a matter of life and death."

McChristian says one man recently had a heart attack and had to be brought out of his apartment window by firefighters because the elevators were down again.  "That could happen to anyone," she says.  "It could happen to me."

Alma Jackson Ogletree also lives on the 11th floor.  She is 91 years old and must use a walker or a wheelchair to get around. 

She says she sometimes has to call her son to bring her food or medicine when the elevators are not working.

McChristian says a number of residents are considering filing a lawsuit. During a meeting with an attorney, they were told it would cost Towne Centre Place $300,000 to replace the aging elevators, "and the owners don't want to spend the money."

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell has also gotten involved.  She's asked the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to find temporary housing for residents until the situation is fixed. From her letter to MSHDA:

This could jeopardize the health of residents of the complex because medical personnel are not able to reach patients. In addition, it has been reported that Meals on Wheels volunteers have had to climb 11 flights of stairs to provide meals for residents, and caretakers have not been able to access patients resulting in seniors going weeks without a bath. These reports are deeply concerning and could result in tragedy if unaddressed.

Dingell 's letter alleges there are problems at the complex besides broken elevators.

We have also received complaints related to poor maintenance of the facility and infestations of cockroaches and bedbugs. It has been reported that furniture has been disposed of and residents are sleeping on the floor.

Michigan Radio sent a reporter to the apartment complex on August 12. Only one elevator was working, and signs warned that only two people should use it at a time, or only one person in a wheelchair.

A spokesman for ForestCity, which owns the property along with real estate in eight states, says the company is aware of the problem and is taking steps to address it as quickly as possible.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
Related Content