Out-of-service elevators at luxury condo 'not ideal,' but not a safety hazard, city says

The City of Toronto says there’s no safety risk for residents of one of the city’s tallest and most luxurious condominiums, where half the elevators have been out of service and the top-most floors are served by a manually operated lift.

Only half of elevators at Aura condominium have been working since storm more than one week ago


The City of Toronto says there's no safety risk for residents of one of the city's tallest and most luxurious condominium building, where half the elevators have been out of service and the top-most floors are served by a manually operated lift.

More than a week ago, all elevators went down at the Aura condominium tower on Yonge Street, south of College Street following heavy overnight rain.

Half the elevators have been restored, except the only service between the 56th and 78th floors is one manually operated elevator.

The condo's management company did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News on Tuesday.

But a spokesperson for Otis, the elevator manufacturer, issued an email statement confirming that a burst pipe led to the damage to six of the elevators, three of which they managed to repair quickly.

"The remaining three elevators sustained the most damage from the building's burst pipe," the statement from Otis communications manager Jodi Golia Hynes said. 

"These elevators require extensive repairs to key critical components. There is nothing more important to Otis than the safety of the people who count on our products and services every day. Otis is ready to resume work, and is waiting on approval from the property management company to begin."

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the city said that as the outage continues, officials are monitoring the property to ensure compliance with all bylaws and codes.

"It is the responsibility of the property ownership and management to ensure the elevators are maintained and operating at all times as per the City's Property Standards Bylaw," Tammy Robbinson said in an email statement to CBC News.

"The property managers in question are working to bring all of the elevators back on line as quickly as possible. Although not having all elevators functioning is not ideal, there is no life safety risk posed in the normal use of the building. Emergency systems are functioning."

Robbinson called the situation an "isolated incident" and said "there continues to be fire and building code compliance."

Toronto Fire told CBC through Robbinson that inspectors have visited the building to ensure compliance with the fire code, as well as to assess whether there's an effective and efficient plan in place in the event there is a fire.

'It's been frustrating'

Residents who have spoken to CBC this week have said the current issue is just the latest of ongoing elevator problems.

Resident Tara Farquharson says elevator problems at the Aura condominium have been "frustrating." (CBC News)

Resident Tara Farquharson lives in the low-rise portion of the building, so has not been as severely impacted by the elevator outage.

But she said that when elevators were out in her section, wait times hit 10 or 15 minutes. On another occasion she was stuck in an elevator for an hour-and-a-half with 10 people.

"I would like to think that property management is dealing with it appropriately. But I do question the quality of the elevators either when they were put in or when they become fixed because it seems like on a regular basis there's at least one down, sometimes two down, and there's three for my level," she told CBC News.

"If they are doing the best that they can it seems a little bit hard to believe, but I don't have the expertise to fully assess that. But it's been frustrating, certainly."

She also shared concern with other residents about what would happen if an emergency occurred on a higher floor, given how long it took to extricate her when she got stuck.

"Certainly it seems a bit silly if you were going to have a really tall building you'd think the one thing you'd put a little time and effort into would be the elevators," she said. "That just makes rational sense."

'A living hell'

Three friends who have been staying on the top floor of the building for the last week said it's been "a living hell."

Taylor Henry said it's at least a 10-minute wait for an elevator to go up, and they have to walk down one floor and wait if they want to leave.

"We don't even live here and we're frustrated," Henry said. "If I was paying to live here I'd be pissed off."

Resident Roger Davidson is retired, and said he avoids long waits for the elevator by going in and out at night, when there's less traffic. He lives on the 23rd floor, and when one elevator was down for the lower floors and then another had to be shut down for people to move, wait times were long.

"It seems that it takes a very long time to order the parts and replace them," Davidson said. "I don't know why, because it should have been planned in advance because the elevator needs fixing on a regular basis."

Only half of Aura's elevators are back in service after an outage more than a week ago. (CBC News)