Luxury Houston high-rise evacuated over structural concerns

Brokers immediately pull down their million-dollar listings

The Royalton Houston, Evacuated
The Royalton Houston (High Rises)

A well-known Houston condo tower was evacuated last week after concrete on the first floor buckled, with no timeframe for a return.

The residents of the Royalton at River Oaks, a luxury high-rise overlooking Allen Parkway, were all ordered out of the building immediately last Thursday night, ABC13 reported.

“You know, they have an emergency channel,” longtime resident Geoff Vaughan recalled. “They said, ‘Get out of the building!’ No pleasantries at all. It wasn’t like, ‘Attention, Royalton residents.’ It was, ‘Get out, now!'”

It all started when structural engineers were called to evaluate the building after concrete on the first floor buckled. They reportedly found the whole first floor filled with water and sand. Video obtained by the local news station shows residents trudging through ankle deep water in the lobby during the evacuation. Other residents describe water pouring through elevator shafts.

Engineering and remediation workers surrounded the building all the next day. With no electricity inside, sweaty and frustrated condo owners were lined up around the building waiting to walk up flights of stairs to get clothes and medicine from the 33-story tower.

After the evacuation, several realtors pulled down their active listings — units ranging from $400,000 to over $1.2 million.

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“Everybody needs to be safe, and they’re going to have to check out the structural integrity of the building before anybody goes back in,” said realtor Stephanie Smith, who pulled one of her listings. “Who knows when they’re going to be able to repair the damage, and find out what happened to the building and try to rectify it.”

Attorney Rob Todd, who coincidentally has an office in the building next door, said Friday that he’s already signed up four Royalton residents as potential clients.

“They are concerned about their insurance, about their homes,” Todd said, adding other attorneys in the building he operates out of are hoping the structural problems don’t affect adjoining properties.

The email sent to residents late Thursday night said, “the cause of the damage is unknown at this time,” and that the building management was “unsure how long the evacuation will be in place.”

The City of Houston reportedly said that the building is now closed, and no longer has an active certificate of occupancy.

Maddy Sperling