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At least five retail businesses inside of the downtown Park Plaza building and dozens of tenants living in apartments encompassing its top three floors as of Tuesday afternoon were without heat and water in the wake of an early morning waterline/water main fracture that flooded portions of the complex.

The Cork & Barrel and Artzy Haven were directly affected with water intake at some point early Tuesday morning and Terri’s Dog Grooming and Bella Hair Salon were inoperable for some time because of the inability to use water. Altruist Wealth Partners was operational at some point during the day, according to building owner Beth French.

Several workers were in the process of addressing and figuring out the full scope of the water issue along 13th Street Tuesday afternoon and French said the goal was to have a water connection once again established later in the day. With the boiler room in the Park Plaza basement taking on waist-level-deep water, French noted that there was a distinct possibility that heat might not return to the building, 1354 27th Ave., until Wednesday at the earliest.

A mass email was sent out in the morning to the building’s apartment tenants informing them of the ongoing situation, French said, adding that a mass follow-up group text was sent out later in the day. With sub-freezing temperatures in the forecast Wednesday evening, there is a real sense of urgency to get heat pumping back into the building and its 27 apartments.

“They said they would be here by tomorrow and hopefully have it up and running,” French said of the company handling the heating repair. “So we are hoping it will only be for tonight because it’s supposed to get really cold tomorrow night.”

The Telegram attempted to reach City Public Works Director Chuck Sliva, but he wasn't immediately available for comment.

Cork & Barrel Owner Nicole Saalfeld, whose establishment is located in the lower level of the Park Plaza building, received a phone call from a building maintenance man around 6:15 a.m. letting her know that there was some sort of water issue inside of her business and the building as a whole. She said she didn’t realize how serious it was until she fielded another phone call from French about 30 minutes later.

“Then I got a call from the owner of the building and she expressed that I probably wanted to get down here as soon as I could because it was probably worse than I was thinking that it was,” Saalfeld said, while taking a break from talking with her insurance company and sifting through inventory in the main bar area. “At that point, the water hadn’t been stopped for two hours.”

She said that she wasn’t sure when the actual water issue started, but noted that by the time she arrived the business’ main floor was under 6-8 inches of water and the lower level, waist-deep water.

French said that she has operated the building for more than three decades and that Tuesday’s events were the worst she ever dealt with. Saalfeld has occupied her space since opening up the Cork & Barrel in mid-2018.

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She said she wasn’t sure of exact damages, but noted that between the building insurance and her other plans she was confident that most of the monetary loss would be covered. That doesn’t mean, though, that she wasn’t hurting.

“I didn’t panic, but it was sad to see,” Saalfeld said. “There are lots of things that I have here that are one-of-a-kind – just rare finds. They are items that took a long time to locate, just things you don’t come across very often which help make this place unique, as a whole. Special books and board games and furniture pieces.

“… I would be lucky to come across those things again, so that is hard. But, it’s really just stuff, and I’ll find something cooler next time, maybe.”

Water was periodically pumped out of the basement starting around 8 a.m. and Saalfeld said several community members stopped by offering to help in any way they could, or simply expressing how sorry they were for what Saalfeld and other building occupants were going through.

Due to the sheer amount of water that sat in her business, Saalfeld said she believes it will take at least three days for things to dry out. Then, she will have to address the problems of having multiple refrigerators not working, among other things.

“I will have to assess that after everything is dried out,” she said. “So in a perfect world we will be open next week, but I might be a little optimistic on that. The sooner the better.”

French said that at this point, what’s done is done. Now, it’s all about just teaming together to make the recovery process move as smoothly as possible.

“You’ve just got to work on getting everyone organized and get things moving as quickly as we can so we can get Nicole back in business, get the tenants warm, the hot water going so they can shower. We’ve just got to put one foot in front of the other. We’ve already come a long way today because this place was filled with water just a few hours ago.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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