The sight of her undamaged apartment was enough to make Tiffany Robinson smile. The candy and gift cards helped make her return home to the Link Apartments on Friday even sweeter.
“As frustrating as the situation has been, the people in my life have been phenomenal,” Robinson said.
Robinson was one of many Link tenants who returned home Friday, 15 days after a massive downtown fire destroyed an apartment building across the street. The Link reopened about 140 apartments, but more than 50 units were too damaged by smoke and water. It’s unclear when those tenants can return.
The inferno that destroyed The Metropolitan apartment building at the corner of Harrington and Jones streets on March 16 was one of the largest fires Raleigh has seen in more than a century. Investigators are working to determine what started the fire.
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That day was Robinson’s 24th birthday.
“It was one hell of a birthday candle,” she said Friday.
Link’s management team hung a banner with the words “Link Strong” across the parking garage and assembled pastel-colored goody baskets filled with M&M’s, gift cards to local bars and a coupon to get 25 percent off rent for April and May.
The company wanted to thank tenants for their patience and restore some sense of normalcy, said Emily Ethridge, spokeswoman for Grubb Properties, which owns and manages the building.
After they were evacuated, some residents went to stay with friends or at hotels. Raleigh police received two reports from tenants who said items were stolen from their apartments after the fire.
On Friday, some tenants seemed thrilled to come home. Justin Patts seemed most excited to regain access to his wardrobe.
“I feel like I’ve been in sweatpants for two weeks,” he said.
Patts, 30, left the building while the fire across the street was still small. On his way out, he grabbed “the important things” – his laptop, coat and phone charger. He stayed in three different hotels before finally landing at a friend’s house.
“I would compare (the experience) to being on a vacation where you’re ready to come home,” he said.
Robinson said she was feeling emotional as she walked back into the lobby of the Link. The night of the fire, she was celebrating her birthday with friends and was traveling into downtown when she saw the flames.
“It’s a weird feeling wondering if everything you own is gone,” she said.
Robinson’s belongings weren’t damaged, and all she lost was the food in her refrigerator. She attributed that to her cross necklace, which she usually wears but forgot in her apartment that night.
“I’m really excited just to sleep in my own bed,” she said.