“Lord, Hear Me”: Florida condo residents fear they will be next
BAL HARBOR, Florida – The condo complex at the exclusive Bal Harbor 101 address in South Florida feels more like a luxury hotel than someone’s home. At the entrance, residents are greeted by a marble fountain and a valet. Inside is a private restaurant. The upstairs balconies offer panoramic ocean views.
But since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium complex in nearby Surfside, residents of Bal Harbor 101 have grown worried that their idyllic resort is also in jeopardy. An engineering inspector recently recorded cracks, water infiltration, chipping (chipping of concrete) and corrosion – some problems that inspectors had also documented at the Champlain Towers before the collapse. Bal Harbor 101 now faces a need of $ 4.5 million or more in repairs.
“We are getting calls from everywhere, including people who live here,” said resort manager Igor Bond, who said he was working with “a large group of inspectors” to help reassure residents that ‘there was nothing to fear.
The collapse of the Champlain Towers has brought disturbing uncertainty to the long line of high-rise residences that adjoin the south coast of Florida.
At Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach, seven miles from the Surfside collapse, residents had just hours to get in and collect their belongings on Friday, a week after an evacuation was ordered to make way for repairs long delayed. A second condominium in the city also evacuated its residents last week, while a private engineering firm warned officials of unsafe conditions at a condominium in Kissimmee, south of Orlando.
“The likelihood of other buildings like Champlain or Crestview is pretty high,” said Michael Joseph, municipal commissioner for North Miami Beach.
The problem wasn’t just with the residences: Miami-Dade County officials on Friday announced the complete evacuation of the old Dade County courthouse after a technical study identified security issues that warranted immediate closure of the upper floors.
Surfside officials were urging building owners to undertake extensive reviews of their structures. Allyn Kilsheimer, the forensic engineer hired to investigate the collapse, said on Friday he had provided the city with more than two dozen recommendations on how to keep other buildings safe, starting with the hiring a structural and geotechnical engineer to review each applicable structure. .
The foundations should be evaluated to ensure that the construction matches the original designs, Kilsheimer said in his memo. He also recommended the use of ground penetrating radar to analyze the steel reinforcement of each building and the thickness of the concrete slabs. Concrete cores should be mined and tested for strength, the memo said.
Mayor Charles W. Burkett sent the recommendations to waterfront buildings – those east of Collins Avenue in Surfside – saying the proposals were intended to provide residents with peace of mind until the forensic investigation into the collapse be completed.
“The recommendations outlined in the memorandum should be applied to all buildings east of Collins, regardless of age,” the mayor wrote.
Surfside deputy mayor Tina Paul said “three or four” other condominiums, in addition to those in the Champlain Towers, had contacted the city over safety concerns.
“People have to use their judgment because there were so many issues with this building besides the construction,” Ms. Paul said. “It was poorly maintained. To my knowledge, the cause is not limited to the problem of building maintenance, although that did not help.
The uncertainty has disrupted many families beyond those already suffering from the catastrophic collapse, which left at least 86 dead and dozens more still missing. Mr Joseph said North Miami Beach is placing displaced residents of the Crestview complex in temporary housing until the building becomes habitable again.
City officials have offered no predictions as to how long that might be. Margarita Bulgakov, whose mother and grandmother lived in the Crestview apartment building, was pushing a wheelchair full of bags of their clothes on Friday and getting ready to load them into her car. She said her mother was unaware of the building’s maintenance issues prior to the evacuation.
“We didn’t know this would be their building,” she said. “I mean, they had moved in just a few months ago.”
The Bal Harbor 101 complex, built in 1978, three years earlier than the Champlain Tower, had long promised residents a refuge several miles from the hustle and bustle of Miami.
But last week there was growing anxiety, frustration and anger over the owners’ lack of knowledge about the issues that arose during the technical recertification of the building.
An engineering inspector noted in a written report to the condominium board on July 2 that the pump room and pool deck exhibited chipping and corrosion of the concrete. The inspector noted cracks and signs of water entering the pool area. The building, he writes, was in good repair but needed repairs.
Neither Mr. Bond nor members of the board responded to requests for comment on the new estimate of catering costs.
Although the building had to undergo a recertification process when it turned 40, around 2018, public records show the village did not certify the skyscraper to be compliant until a week later. the collapse of the South Champlain towers.
The consulting engineer told council on July 2 that while the building was “safe for continued use,” it needed additional waterproofing on the garage patio and concrete repairs on the patio. swimming pool.
Amy Benishai, who bought a unit and moved to Bal Harbor 101 in 2014 with her husband, Jack, said they renovated their unit, thinking it looked run down, shortly after moving in. The structural integrity of the building never crossed her mind, she says, but now she thinks it should have.
“I love living here and I love the people in this building,” Ms. Benishai said. “But I am worried.”
Now she wonders how safe he is to stay. Ms Benishai, who is Jewish, said she repeated the same prayer every night.
“Lord, listen to me: may I fall asleep and be protected,” she said. “I just hope I can wake up the next morning.”
Other building owners have said they hope building engineers are correct in believing the building to be safe.
“I hope everything is done,” said Miriam Desjardins, a resident of Bal Harbor 101 for 18 years, before adding, “Safety only comes from God.”
At the condominium board meeting on Wednesday, association executives revealed that it would cost around $ 4.5 million to make all the necessary restorations.
More than half of this will go to restoring and repainting the garage, while $ 1.3 million is allocated to restoring and painting the building and $ 932,560 will cover the replacement of the roof.
Building management blamed the delay in these repairs on the lack of availability of government building inspectors and construction workers during the Covid-19 closures.
But the two-hour reunion quickly turned into chaos as condominium board members and other residents argued.
“The idea that I can come to you, with suggestions, is nonsense! A resident shouted at the board.
Another resident told a council member that he should resign; some have complained that the attention drawn to their building has become a “public relations nightmare” that could affect property values.
Discussions about the repairs turned into more complaints about the plumbing and parking, and in the end, council members said they were doing their best.
“We are not experts,” said one of them. “We are volunteers. “
Mike baker contributed to Seattle reporting.