A bitter fight over the fate of the Surfside Condo hide site

Surfside, Fla. – Unbearable grief b exploits Annabella Levine when Champlain Towers South collapsed in Florida this summer, burying her beloved older brother and three cousins ​​in the rubble of her building while away for the night. It took 18 days to identify some of the debris.

What he did not expect – which engulfed his recent days, even as he struggled with the great sorrows of his family – was a battle with the town of Surfside, the enclave on the beach where he and his cousin spent some of the happiest days of their childhood.

Their fight ended on the inevitable question that followed a tragedy that killed 98 people: what should be done where such a horrific event took place? But unlike other disasters, Surfside land is worth millions of dollars and is important for the financial future of some survivors.

Mrs. Levin and her relatives, as well as the families of the other victims, insist that the site, like the 9/11 Memorial in New York, should be a memorial to the dead, at least in part. Although the ruins of the Champlain Tower have long since been removed, they feel that the ground on which so many people died is sacred.

But the parcel on 8777 Collins Avenue is about two acres off the beach in South Florida, where waterfall property is scarce, developers run the economy, and the market for luxury condos seems to satisfy a dream Florida lifestyle. For many of those who lived in the building and lost almost everything they owned, a lucrative real estate contract seems to be the best hope for any significant compensation.

Debate over Parcel’s fate The two victims expressed conflicting interests between the families of the victims of the June fall, those who lost people, and those who lost property. And it has stirred up raw feelings and threatened to split the surfside, including f, 000 low-rise buildings, and a history of resistance to recent aggressive reconstruction that has brought huge gleaming towers to nearby Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach.

“We all knew each other,” Mrs. Levin said. “I see all the pictures of those who died, and they all looked at my pool. I know people who have died in just one day.

The issue is not just what will be built on the property but also how big it could be, with city leaders pushing to rewrite the zoning law and limit the size of future construction. In an effort to financially complete the Champline Tower residents, some see the impact by looking at developers ’profits, as is often the case in Florida.

The judge overseeing several legal claims about the collapse said residents of Champlain Tower should sell the land for the largest possible payment and quickly. According to a court-appointed broker operating a real estate contract, a private bidder is willing to offer $ 120 million for the property. Insurance could pay an additional $ 48 million.

The cause of the crash is still unknown এবং and there is no third party in the deep pocket to sue it, at least not yet ম Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Hanzman said the total funding would be much less than adequate compensation. So many people died that local newspapers are still publishing their bodies, three months later.

The judge made it clear that any opportunity to turn the entire place into a public memorial, as some residents and community members had hoped, would run counter to financial reality. No local government can buy parcels at market price. Even setting aside a portion for a memorial would have to persuade the majority of the owners of the Champlain Tower condos to accept small payments – a sensitive request that could push neighbors against each other.

The beach town of Miami, just south of Surfside where Champlain Towers South once stood, offers space for a memorial in a nearby park. But Mrs. Levin, her relatives and the families of other victims who packed Surfside Town Hall last week said there would be only one place: the place where the building fell. They say there will be a new shiny high-rise, too much to bear.

Mrs. Levine lost her brother Andres Levine, 26; Cousins ​​Moises Rodan and Luis Sadovnic, both 28; And Mr. Sadovnic’s wife, Nikki Langesfeld, 26.

“I’ve broken my whole life overnight,” Mrs. Levin’s brother-in-law Vicky Bitesh, who was widowed when finalizing hotel reservations for the honeymoon, said through tears. “Help us find a way so I don’t have to drive through that place and see a building that is erasing the biggest tragedy of my entire life.”

Some residents have felt betrayed by politicians who promised long-term help in the days following the fall. The families of some of the victims have expressed outrage at their committee commissioners who rejected the idea of ​​exchanging land with the Surfside Community Center, allowing developers to build a new height on the community center’s property and dedicating the Champlain Tower site to a new community. Center and a memorial.

Frequently Asked Questions

It could take investigators several months to determine exactly why a significant portion of the Surfside, Fla, building collapsed. But there are already some clues about the possible causes of the disaster, including design or construction errors. Three years before the collapse, a consultant found evidence of “major structural damage” to concrete slabs under the pool deck and “lots” of cracking and breakage of parking garage columns, beams and walls. Engineers who have inspected or photographed the wreckage say the damaged columns at the base of the building may have had less steel reinforcement than the original plan.

Condo boards and homeowners associations often struggle to pay residents for necessary repairs, and most board members at Champline Towers South resigned in 2019 because of their frustration. In April, the new chairman of the board wrote to residents that the condition of the building had “deteriorated significantly” over the past few years and that construction would now cost 15 15 million instead of 9 9 million. There were also complaints from residents that the construction of a huge, Renzo piano-designed residential tower next door was shaking the Champlain Towers to the south.

The whole family unit died because the landslide happened at midnight, when people were asleep. For example, the parents and children killed in Unit 802 were 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guerra, a fan of rock band Kiss and the University of Miami Hurricane; Anaely Rodriguez, 42, who took up tango and salsa dancing; Lucia Guara, 11, who found astronomy and outer space fascinating; And Emma Guara, 4, who loved the world of princesses. If you look down on the victims, you can understand the extent of destruction.

Mrs. Levin and the other family suggested that this would be an effective compromise. But Eliana R. Salzhauer, one of the commissioners, called the idea “misleading” because the community center site, located about five blocks north of the Champlain Tower, is located in the city center and is key to its quality of life.

At the commission meeting on Tuesday, which attracted so many people that someone had to watch from the lobby from below, the commissioner’s earlier remarks angered many families. But Mrs Salzhaur insisted the outrage against city officials was wrong: most commissioners want a memorial on the site, she said, but the city cannot afford the land, and the fate of the property ultimately lies in the hands of condo owners and the court, not Surfside.

In any case, the community center should be limited, said a majority of commissioners and a number of residents.

In an interview, Ms Salzhauer said lawyers in the Champlain Tower case – many of whom have represented developers in the past – have been exploiting victims’ families and survivors in anticipation of future real estate deals.

Referring to the turbulent source of the Champlain Tower, he said, “It’s the perfect storm of conflict of interest in South Florida corruption.” Issues such as land degradation continue to be investigated.

“The real problem is, why did the building collapse? It may be impossible. And should we develop somewhere where it is not sustainable in the first place?

A major development proposed in the city a few years ago sparked a backlash that saw voters oust most of the commissioners and approve rules restricting the sale of government land. The new commission followed a more restrictive zoning code, which attracted little attention until it became clear that the changes could reduce the value of Champlain Tower land. This month, the commissioners agreed to allow development of the same size on the site of the building that fell.

The families of the victims and survivors have left the town hall, attended court hearings in Zoom and pledged to navigate their grief and new realities of displacement in WhatsApp chats. Even the recovery of their personal belongings is a long way off: the Miami-Dade Police Department must first disinfect everything from photos to jewelry to get rid of asbestos একটি a process that could cost millions of dollars.

Many of those whose homes have collapsed still do not know where, when it will all end, they will live. Most want to come home. But in the end, it can be very expensive.

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