Waukesha’s Horizon West condominium owners recall building scares a year later

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — Apartment owners rallied today exactly one year after police forced them to evacuate their Waukesha homes, fearing the building might collapse.

Forty-eight units are inside the Horizon West Condos. Residents remember the feelings of uncertainty that cold night. Some old, some teenagers, home alone — now, with a common thread — the heartache they just can’t shake.

“We’re still here. This hasn’t gone away for them,” said Diane McGeen, the apartment owner’s daughter.

Diane McGeen’s 87-year-old mother has had a difficult year after the panic of being forced out of her fourth-floor home in the Horizon West Condos.

“It was almost like being on the Titanic when it went down. It was 15 minutes, get out, you’ll never be able to live here again,” McGeen said.

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

“There was panic everywhere, people in the hallways saying is it true? Is it true? Is this really happening?” McGeen said.

The scars resulted both physically and emotionally.

“On the move, she had a stress fracture in her back and then that set it off. And then he started having more heart problems,” McGeen said.

Right now, Ione Kohler is back in the hospital, her sixth trip in the past year.

“And before that she was like vibrant, active and very healthy,” McGeen said.

Of the 48 families affected, we learned that some are still homeless — living with a family member, sleeping on couches. Some who chose to rent an apartment saw their credit take a hit because they could no longer pay their mortgage.

“The last year has been very hectic. The first two or three months I was in a pretty deep depression,” said Laurel Peterson, the owner of the apartment.

Laurel Peterson showed us this photo of her daughter in their second floor apartment before rushing out.

“We took everything we could. We didn’t know where we were going, what exactly was going on,” Peterson said.

The apartment owners tried their best to stick together, filing a lawsuit against travelers insurance for not paying out claims, but a judge ruled against them. The owners are charming. Meanwhile, the city is trying to force the apartment owners to pay for the building’s demolition.

“Of course, we’re all in financial trouble, so for us to come up with that kind of money on our own is almost impossible,” Peterson said.

There is a hearing in January where a Waukesha County judge is expected to consider demolishing the building.

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