A state commission granted the developers of the Cosmopolitan on the Canal a code variance, which gave them permission to not follow the current building code for buildings that size.
Documents show the developers of the Cosmopolitan asked for a variance from the state that allowed them to classify the building as four stories rather than five. It was granted, which allowed the building to be framed with wood instead of metal and concrete.
Why ask for that variance? Because, according to an Indianapolis Code Consultant, state code allows builders to use wood framing on buildings that are four stories tall, but not five.
"Basically, the code limits the number of stories and floor area based on the type of materials you use. For example, for combustible materials, wood, there's a limitation on how many stories you can build and how big the floor area can be. Once you're up to five stories, generally you're up to non-combustible construction. Wood framing would not be allowed," said Ralph Gerdes, Code Consultant.
Much of the Cosmopolitan built on a slope along the canal is four stories. But, because a small portion is five stories, the developer had to ask for a variance in order to use the highly combustible wood framing.
A spokesman for Flaherty & Collins, the owner of the apartment complex, claims such variances are common; however, it seems to have been a decision which was made in complete reckless disregard for the surrounding townhomes, apartments and businesses which were were put in danger from last week's fire. Ambers from the fire even reached the State House building because of the strong northerly winds during the fire. The fire would have never gotten that far out of control if steel and concrete had been used. More importantly, firefighters could have entered the building safely to fight the fire without fear of a total structural collapse as occurred during last week's fire. Anyone with any common sense should have known better than to permit such construction in a densely populated downtown area of the City.
It will come as no surprise to you that Flaherty & Collins has made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to various Indiana politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, over the last several years. That includes $2,500 to Gov. Mitch Daniels.