INDIANAPOLIS - Dozens of holes and gaps in the concrete ceiling of the Circle Centre Mall Moon Garage are raising questions among drivers and have prompted the Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement to take immediate action, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
Exposed reinforcement bars and broken apart concrete drew concern from people using the garage.
"It doesn't really look safe because you have all the holes and everybody is in here," said Cassandra Smalley, who drove in from Covington to go shopping at Circle Centre Mall.
"It looks like the concrete is coming off, coming apart," said Chris Kindred, a Greenwood firefighter in Indianapolis for a convention.
"I wouldn't want the stuff falling on my car and damage it," said James Meacham, a Greenwood firefighter.
Indianapolis tax dollars helped pay for a large chunk of the mall and its garages in the early 1990s, and 20 years later, the garage is still a very popular place to park for shopping, dining and sporting events.
The city currently owns the land, but Moon garage is owned by Circle Centre Mall LLC.
A concerned citizen contacted the Call 6 Investigators back in March about the holes in the ceiling, asking if the concrete is falling and if the garage is safe to park in.
Kenney invited Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne professor and structural engineer Mohammad Alhassan to take a first-hand look at the Moon garage.
"It's very concerning," said Alhassan. "This is a serious problem."
Alhassan said corrosion of the steel reinforcement bars is the likely culprit, and that can cause the concrete to spall, or break apart.
A pipe spewing water inside the garage also caught his attention.
"I'm very surprised people can still park here," said Alhassan. "I wouldn't park here."
Kenney sent video and photos to concrete organizations, who agreed with Alhassan's concerns about corrosion inside the garage.
"Looks like a pretty significant corrosion problem to me in some areas," said Colin Lobo, of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, in an email to Kenney. "Very likely needs to be evaluated and repaired."
"It appears that water had been getting into the concrete and causing the reinforcement to rust," said Daniel DeGraaf, executive director of the Michigan Concrete Association, in an email to RTV6. "The source of the water needs to be determined and steps should be taken to stop the inflow."
With those opinions in hand, Kenney contacted the Department of Code Enforcement.
"We immediately put it in the queue," said DCE spokesman Adam Baker. "You never want to be too cautious about anything."
Baker acknowledged the appearance of the garage might cause concern.
"I could understand why someone might say, 'Hey, there might be something wrong with that,'" said Baker.
After Kenney's inquiry about the garage, DCE hired Janssen & Spaans Engineering to inspect the garage.
The firm found "concrete cracking and potholes" on the topside of the slab.
"The deterioration is likely the result of water and chloride infiltration and freeze-thaw cycles," read the report from Janssen & Spaans. "Spalled concrete could fall, endangering people and could damage vehicles."
Baker said the engineer found various areas that had spalling that could be a concern if they were not addressed.
The engineer also found evidence the garage's owners had been trying to address the problem.
"Deteriorated concrete has been removed and exposed reinforcing steel has been coated with a corrosion inhibitive coating in many of the areas," read the report. "Concrete delamination that could eventually spall was also detected. Exposed reinforcing steel that had been coated is showing evidence that corrosion has continued."
While the engineer's report did not comment directly on the safety of the garage, Baker said the city used its expertise to determine the garage is safe for drivers.
"There was no structural integrity concerns whatsoever," said Baker. "Aesthetically, it's not beautiful, but structurally it's safe."
Baker said in response to the city's inquiries, the garage's owners roped off areas to isolate and chip away any concrete that could fall.
"That subsequent visit revealed that conditions identified during their initial visit had been remediated, or that all loose concrete has been removed from degraded areas, hence, eliminating safety concerns," read the code enforcement letter.
"We see that as a plus that they would be that reactive, that they would respond immediately to take care of this issue," said Baker.
Circle Centre Mall and Simon Property Group declined to be interviewed about the garage or provide a statement for the story.
Simon Property Group spokesman Les Morris referred questions to Baker, DCE's spokesman.
"Unbeknownst to us, they already had a maintenance plan in place," said Baker. "They had already been doing localized maintenance throughout the garage."
Janssen & Spaans issued several recommendations, including sealing cracks in floors, applying protective coating on floors and sandblasting to remove loose material.
According to documents obtained by the Call 6 Investigators, the mall is in the middle of a master plan for restoration of the garage.
Code enforcement emphasized the Moon garage issue is not like the Pan Am Garage, which shut down three years ago because of loose and falling concrete as well as structural issues.
"Pan Am was on a completely different level," said Baker. "That in and of itself was an unsafe condition."
Drivers may continue to see holes and repairs going in some of the mall garages, but the city vows you are not in any danger.
"The garage can still operate," said Baker. "We want citizens to know you're safe."
The Department of Code Enforcement has no further plans to further inspect the garage and will leave it in the owner's hands unless they receive complaints from the public.
"We have trust in them they're going to follow through on the plan," said Baker. "Code enforcement is not a gestapo."
As for ending what's causing the corrosion in the first place, the city said the deterioration is normal.
"Potholes happen," said Baker.
If you have a safety concern about a parking garage, a bridge or any other structure, you can make a request through Request Indy at http://maps.indy.gov/RequestIndy/ or call the Mayor’s Action Center at (317) 327-4MAC.