Plaza Towers owners sue city over flood issue

No power at Plaza Towers after the basement parking garage flooded. (April 2013)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The great flood of 2013 has produced a major lawsuit, and the City of Grand Rapids is being blamed for flooding that forced the evacuation of Plaza Towers, one of the tallest buildings in the city.

The rain came and the river swelled, and Plaza Towers’ loading dock and parking garage flooded.

Floodwater shorted out the building’s electrical system, forcing everyone to evacuate.

“It was terrible,” said Bob Sullivan, a resident at Plaza Towers. “We had to get out for about a month. We lost everything. It just was a bad situation.”

Estimates put damage totals in the millions, and it took months for everything to return to normal at the building.

But a lawsuit brought by the building’s owners claims the City of Grand Rapids made the situation worse, blaming a 12-and-a-half-foot-wide passage to the city’s Riverwalk for allowing the floodwaters in.

The passage cut through the city’s flood-retention wall.

Stephen Afedoulis, the attorney for Plaza Towers, said the hole, which was cut when the Riverwalk was built in the early 1990s, basically funneled water at a high pressure from the river into the building and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The suit also claims that when Plaza Towers’ owners tried to lessen the damage by bringing in large, diesel-powered pumps, city engineers — who were worried that pumping that water out could cause changes in pressure that might damage the storm drain that runs under Plaza Towers — forced the owners to stop the pumping efforts.

The lawsuit is based not only on damages but also violation of the owners’ constitutional rights, and according to Afedoulis, government immunity doesn’t apply in this case.

In legal theory, the breach in the wall and the order to stop pumping caused the damage. And when the government does something to diminish the value of private property, the government needs to make it right.

24 Hour News 8’s calls to Grand Rapids’ city attorney were not returned Wednesday.

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