Horizon West Condo owners in Waukesha recall building crisis one year later

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — Condo residents came together today, exactly one year after authorities evacuated them from their Waukesha residences, due to concerns that the building might collapse.

There are forty-eight units in the Horizon West Condos. The residents remember the night of uncertainty vividly. Some were elderly, some were teenagers, some were home alone — now, with a shared sense of heartache they can’t seem to shake.

“We’re still here. This hasn’t gone away for them,” said Diane McGeen, daughter of a condo owner.

Diane McGeen’s 87-year-old mother had a tough year following the chaos of being evacuated from her fourth-floor unit at Horizon West Condos.

“It felt like being on the Titanic when it sank. It was like, ‘Get out in 15 minutes, you won’t be able to live here again,'” said McGeen.

This is Horizon West Condos on West Avenue in Waukesha today. A year ago, it was deemed structurally unsound.

“There was panic everywhere, people in the hallways asking, ‘Is it true? Is it really happening?'” said McGeen.

Both physical and emotional scars were left in the aftermath.

“Moving out, she developed a stress fracture in her back which triggered more health issues. She started experiencing heart problems,” said McGeen.

Currently, Ione Kohler is back in the hospital for the sixth time in the past year.

“Before this, she was lively, active, and very healthy,” said McGeen.

Among the 48 affected families, some are still without a permanent home — staying with relatives or sleeping on couches. Some who opted to rent apartments saw their credit scores suffer as they could no longer afford their mortgages.

“The past year has been chaotic. For the first two to three months, I was in a deep depression,” said Laurel Peterson, a condo owner.

Laurel Peterson shared a photo of her daughter in their second-floor condo before the rush to leave.

“We took what we could. We weren’t sure where to go or what was happening,” said Peterson.

The condo owners have tried to support each other, lodging a lawsuit against Travelers Insurance for not honoring claims, but a court ruled against them. They are appealing the decision. Meanwhile, the city is pushing the condo owners to cover the cost of demolishing the building.

“We are all facing financial difficulties, so coming up with that amount of money on our own is nearly impossible,” said Peterson.

A hearing is scheduled for January, where a Waukesha County judge will consider the demolition of the building.

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