Just days before the 13-story Champlain Towers condo complex in Miami fell to the ground, a manager complained to city leaders in an email that necessary maintenance was being delayed.
As part of the 40-year safety recertification that was due this year, substantial plans for renovations had been put into place. The complex’s management team appeared to be eager to complete the job as soon as possible. In 2018, Frank Morabito Consultants was hired to check the facility prior to the recertification process.
After Frank Morabito Consultants’ email to the Surfside Building Department about the scheduled renovation work got no response for more than a month, Scott Stewart, the condominium’s building manager, wrote to James McGuinness, the director of the Surfside Building Department, on June 21, “As we are out to bid on our project [we] need to get to answers to these questions… This is holding us up and costs are going up and out 40 years is coming up fast,” reports the DailyMail.
McGuinness responded to Stewart on June 23, only one day before the condo crumbled, saying he wanted additional details concerning a temporary parking lot that would be needed for workers doing the fixes. He requested more information about the parking lot to ‘prevent the site from becoming a dust bowl or a mud bowl.’
McGuinness reportedly went to the top of the Chamberlain Towers apartment complex’s roof to assess it the same day. He subsequently told authorities that there had been no unusual amount of equipment, supplies, or anything on the roof that had caught his building official’s eye that would make him apprehensive as to that facility falling.
However, worries about the pool deck section, which had failed to waterproof, and the subterranean parking lot, which had ‘abundant’ cracking was cited in a 2018 analysis by Frank Morabito Consultants. It was estimated that the restoration work would cost $16 million.
The concerns under consideration, according to Surfside town manager Andrew Hyatt, were preliminary plans unconnected to structural work and not approvals to conduct repairs the building required to obtain 40-year recertification.
“It would appear that the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association sought to address a number of issues outside the scope of any proposed 40-year re-certification work,” Hyatt said in a statement. “There was no indication during any communications between the Town and the association by telephone or electronic mail that this submission required emergency action by the Town of Surfside.”
Meanwhile, amid concerns that Tropical Storm Elsa would cause what was left of the structure to fall, sections of the Miami condo that remained standing were blasted with controlled explosives on July 4.
A State of Emergency for Tropical Hurricane Elsa on Saturday was declared by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade. She also signed an emergency order to raise the structure before the storm strikes the neighborhood on Monday afternoon, July 5.
According to Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, administrators were concerned that the remaining part of the building would be blown down in a direction that was dangerous.
The remains of the demolished structure would be removed as quickly as possible, according to Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah of Fire Rescue, allowing rescue crews access to the garage area for the first time, which was the core of the search.