Elevator woes resurface for downtown building

Long-term solutions sought

A crane lowers a motor from the service elevator in The Parker to the ground in late August. The generator was removed through the building roof to be transported to a Mandan repair shop.

Residents of The Parker apartments in downtown Minot have been tripping up and down as many as nine flights of stairs lately while solutions are sought for an aged elevator system that has been plagued with problems.

Building owner Terry Kongelf of Minot said The Parker’s two elevators, installed in the 1940s, have had a frustrating history of issues, despite sinking many thousands of dollars into repairs.

“It was so frustrating because repair companies would come and they would get it up and running. And it would run for a few days and then it would quit,” he said. “It’s been quite a saga to go through and work with this thing and try to get credible people that, one, know what they’re doing when they work on it.”

A recent fix lasted about a year, but problems have arisen once again this past month with both elevators.

Kongelf, who has helped residents haul groceries up multiple flights of stairs, said residents have been allowed out of their leases, although only a few have taken up the offer. Most have stayed. A number of the residents are elderly, including one who at age 100 has been confined to his apartment and is dependent on family to bring him necessities, due to the lack of an elevator.

The main elevator goes to the ninth floor of the 10-story building, while the service elevator goes to the eighth floor. The Parker houses the Minot Commission on Aging on the first floor, with parking on the basement level. Fifty-eight condo apartments are located on floors two through eight, and two penthouse units are on the ninth floor. The 10th floor is mechanical.

The resident manager lives in one of the penthouse units while the other, with a panoramic view overlooking the city, is unoccupied during remodeling into an Airbnb to be called the Eisenhower Suite. President Dwight Eisenhower stayed in the space, formerly the Clarence Parker Hotel, in 1953 when visiting Minot to dedicate the Garrison Dam.

About a month ago, a crane operator was hired to remove the service elevator’s motor from the 10th floor through the roof. Four people couldn’t lift the heavy motor to the crane so had to devise a method to drag it across the roof.

The motor now is in a Mandan repair shop and is expected to be re-installed at The Parker in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, a repair crew has been on site this week, working unsuccessfully to try to fix the main elevator. Kongelf said the motor also will have to be removed and sent to the Mandan shop.

To get it to a repair shop, options for removing the 10th floor motor that runs the main elevator include tearing off the roof and lifting it out with a crane or blowing a six- to eight-foot hole in the side of the concrete and brick building, Kongelf said. Carrying the motor down the stairs also has been mentioned but may not be possible due to the weight, he said.

Kongelf said the elevator system is a sturdy one, but when hotel elevator operators went by the wayside, they took with them knowledge of the routine maintenance of those old systems. As a result, a control room wall of switches that used to be cleaned regularly and cables that were oiled were neglected for many years. That likely contributes to problems with elevators that are more than 75 years old.

Kongelf and his building manager are seeking bids for a new main elevator. The service elevator would need to be working while the main elevator is replaced. The replacement process could take up to six months to complete, Kongelf said.

The Parker had been remodeled in 1990, but funding was limited and the elevators weren’t replaced as they should have been at that time, said Kongelf, who was a member of that ownership group that included numerous individuals. He eventually bought out the others in 2000.

“I spent the first two years just fixing things,” he said. “The city had condemned or was in the process of condemning the building because of some failing concrete in the sidewalk and the wall.”

Having addressed numerous issues from asbestos to mechanical and hot water systems, the elevators are the major items left to tackle.

“We have to have safety and function so that the tenants that live there can get in and out of there better,” Kongelf said. “These elevators are probably the biggest problem. But we’re going to solve it.”


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