Editor’s note: Added caption to main picture, and added more pictures to the article.
“Where am I going to go?” Jami Breon, resident of the Royal Towers, said.
Manhattan Fire Department’s Risk Reduction service issued letters of condemnation to residents at Royal Towers Apartments, located on 1700 North Manhattan Ave., on March 16. Tenants must evacuate the building by May 1 due to safety concerns.
“Second semester just started, we’re in Manhattan, Kansas, I’m trying to find a place that A, I can afford, and B, is close enough to campus,” Breon, junior in secondary English education, said.
Breon said residents knew about the Royal Towers’ possible condemnation weeks before the notice, and she hoped for a miracle to save it.
“Honestly, I wasn’t shocked … just based on the state that I knew the building was in,” Breon said.
In the notice of condemnation, the engineer’s report said “the current condition of the walkway and stairwells is ‘structurally unsound based upon original design intent.’”
“Areas are on the verge of crumbling,” Breon said. “One wrong jump could probably send a section of the walkway area coming down.”
The violations listed in the building’s official report said “the walking surfaces of the building are deteriorated to the point that it is hazardous.”
The notice of condemnation said Royal Tower’s landlord failed to fix the violations listed in the building official’s report, resulting in the condemnation of the building.
“One of the owners was out here before the condemnation notice, trying to get all the stuff fixed, but by that time it was too late,” Breon said.
Breon said residents are not receiving compensation from the Royal Towers. They will be refunding residents a prorated rent amount back if they move out before the end of the month.
“So we’re not getting any, like, apology money. … But what I am getting back is my deposit.” Breon said.
Breon said she moved into the Royal Towers in August 2022 and had no concerns about her safety until two months ago.
“I feared about if I was safe to live in the building and just, what was going to happen,” Breon said.
Breon said she worried about herself and other residents finding new housing.
“There’s families that live in that apartment. Families with two or three kids, who knows where they’re going to go,” Breon said.
Brett Cale, a DoorDash driver, said he noticed the state of the building while delivering an order to the Royal Tower Apartments.
“I’m not a structural engineer whatsoever. I work on cars and I deliver food. … There’s no way this can be safe,” Cale said.
Cale said he made TikTok videos about the Royal Towers to spread awareness about the hazardous building. One of Cale’s TikToks garnered 4.7 million views.
“I just posted that one video where it’s buckling and I did not expect it to get that many views or that much attention,” Cale said.
Breon said she appreciates Cale’s advocacy of the residents.
“It’s good that he kind of made the community aware of it, but also on the flip side, like if he hadn’t posted those TikTok videos, would all of this have happened?” Breon said.
Andy Thompson, the director of student life at Kansas State, said he is working with both the city of Manhattan and the Royal Towers to contact residents who are students at the university.
“What I want our student community to know is that there are offices on this campus and professionals on this campus that want to help,” Thompson said. “We know that in a student’s time at the university, they’re gonna face a variety of different challenges and that they’re not alone in that.”
Thompson said the Office of Student Life has sent information to student residents with information about Housing and Dining, Student Legal Services, Lafene Health Center and Office of Student Financial Assistance to alleviate the stress of the situation.
“Any student that might be having difficulties with their off-campus housing can connect with Off-Campus Housing Support to kind of talk through what their options might look like,” Thompson said.