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Florida Residents Complained About Champlain Towers Development Two Years Before Collapse

Two and a half years before the Champlain Towers South building collapsed in Florida, residents were complaining that the buildings were being developed too closely together and didn’t seem safe. 

“We are concerned that the construction next to Surfside is too close. Workers were digging too close to our property and we have concerns regarding the structure of our building. There’s construction equipment directly across from our building’s property wall,” resident Mara Chouela, who is also a board member of the condo association, wrote in a January 2019 email to a building official.

Rosendo Prieto was the official responsible for sorting through complaints made by the condo association at the time. 30 minutes after Chouela sent the initial email, Prieto responded that there was nothing that needed to be checked. He reasoned that “the offending development, an ultra-luxury tower known as Eighty Seven Park, was directly across the border separating the town of Surfside from the city of Miami Beach, which runs between the two buildings. 

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Now, after the Champlain Towers South collapse, Eighty Seven Park is facing even more scrutiny over the construction of these buildings. In fact, Champlain residents often complained that all the construction from the neighboring buildings continuously caused their units to shake.

“The construction of 87 Park did not cause or contribute to the collapse that took place in Surfside. But the 18-story tower would not have been allowed to be built across the border in Surfside, where buildings are subject to a 12-story height limit (although Champlain Towers itself received an exemption in the 1980s to add nine extra feet),” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Maggie Ramsey is a Florida resident whose mother is among the unaccounted for Champlain residents, and she claims her mother had been concerned about the work being done next door for weeks now. 

“She did complain of a lot of tremors and things that were being done to the other building that she sometimes was concerned about what may be happening to her building, and if she was at risk.” 

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Peter Dyga, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said that “the likelihood of the Eighty Seven Park construction being a significant cause in the Surfside collapse is slim, but no lead or idea should be excluded.”

“There’s probably going to be multiple things in the end that have contributed in some way or another. Still, buildings are built next to buildings all the time, and it doesn’t mean that they come down.”

Records also show that Champlain South residents have sent a series of angry emails to Terra Group, the developers behind Eighty Seven Park, complaining about construction debris, noise, and lack of action. 

“I am shocked and disappointed to see the lack of consideration and respect that Terra has shown our residents. You have said you want to be a good neighbor… This is truly outrageous and quite unprecedented from what we hear from other associations in the area that have dealt with construction beside them,” Anette Goldstein, a condo board member, wrote to executives with the developer. 

Miami Condo

Area Expert Explains Possible Causes Of Miami Condominium Collapse 

A major condominium complex collapsed in Surfside, Florida this Thursday, leaving one dead and over 100 individuals missing. Miami-Dade County authorities are currently investigating the Champlain Towers South Condo specifically to try to figure out what exactly caused the collapse. 

While the official cause has yet to be determined, an area expert has compiled a list of possible reasons that this building collapsed and shared it with the media. Gary Slossberg is the founder of the South Florida construction company, National Home Building And Remodeling Corp. 

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“In a general way, there are many things that could happen. Construction defects or engineering defects. I’m not suggesting there were any construction or engineering defects, but simply pointing out the possibility. I think there is some value, and it makes some sense to do periodic inspections,” he explained.

Engineering inspections happen every five to ten years normally, and these inspections typically involve removing drywall or other external materials so that experts can inspect the steel beams or structural aspects of a building to make sure they’re not eroding away. 

Slossberg also explained that the “salt in Miami’s coastal air could potentially facilitate the erosion of steel, and evidence of that could appear in the form of rust stains or exposed rebar, which is like a cancer for a building, by the time you see it, it could be too late.” 

“While salt can have a severe impact on coastal buildings, I’m not sure how long it would actually take for salt to completely erode a building’s materials to the point of collapse.” 

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Solssberg also suggested “if the building were constructed with a post-tension slab, or a concrete slab that has cables running through it, and one of those cables came loose, that could have led to its destruction. It could take down a whole building.” 

The condominium was built in 1981, back when Florida and Miami-Dade County specifically had completely different construction codes. 

“With every hurricane, new construction codes come out. New engineering codes…This is 40 years later [since the building was constructed]. The codes have changed at least a dozen times. I know they have. So, some of these older buildings are not really built to withstand the type of same weather conditions as when they were built originally.”

Another possibility, he said, is that the “building’s balconies may have had some constructional issues. Many Miami-area buildings are built with concrete balconies that are back-pitched, meaning they don’t allow water to escape properly after it rains.” 

“There’s a lot of concrete restoration going on, and this is where you see a lot of that rust and rebar coming through the slab between the water sitting there and the salt air — it’s just not a good combination,” he said.

“But again, I don’t know if that would take down the whole building. We just still don’t know what happened.”

WeWork

How the Collapse of WeWork Could Impact NYC Real Estate

WeWork, a company responsible for leasing up to 1 million square feet of office space in cities around the world every day, has recently run into serious financial difficulties have raised concerns about the impact on New York City’s real estate market. In large part as a result of then-CEO Adam Neumann’s questionable and irresponsible antics, WeWork’s parent operation, the We Company, saw its valuation cut in half overnight right as the company was preparing to go public. As such, the We Company lost $1.3 billion in the first half of this year alone, which works out to a loss of $5,200 per customer. Several thousand layoffs at the company are planned, and the We Company’s more ambitious projects, such as the WeGrow academy, an entrepreneurial school, have been canceled

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WeWork happens to be the largest office tenant in New York City, as it owns over 100 locations in Manhattan, occupying 8.9 million square feet of office space. WeWork operates by maintaining office space and renting it out to professionals; however, in the aftermath of the company’s rapid decline, exactly what will happen to this tremendous amount of space WeWork is leasing is unclear. WeWork rose to prominence by offering flexible opportunities for urban professionals, and while the company is currently in decline with a low probability of recovery, the philosophy of flexibility in working environments is likely to stick around. 

That’s because, while the business itself is failing, the business model WeWork popularized has taken off both among rival companies that lease office space and landlords themselves. While it remains the most notable example, WeWork did not invent the industry it occupies, and there exist a plethora of companies that are primed to take WeWork’s place in providing so-called coworking spaces, many of which pre-date the founding of WeWork. And according to industry reports, demand for spaces of this sort remains strong, as consumers appreciate the sort of freedom that flexible office space provides. As such, when WeWork’s leases expire, there’s nothing stopping landlords from adopting their business model with the office space they own, increasing revenues for corporate landlords and potentially reducing costs for clients.

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As WeWork generally doesn’t run entire buildings, instead leasing a small percentage of them, the fallout from WeWork’s likely collapse is predicted to be relatively minor. In fact, landlords are already developing contingency plans for WeWork’s anticipated demise. That being said, not every company is abandoning WeWork, as they continue to generate new clients such as Rudin Management Company, which will soon open a six-story glass building in Brooklyn Navy Yard, with WeWork as its primary tenant. What’s more, large multinational corporations like Verizon and IBM have taken advantage of WeWork’s coworking spaces, as have Microsoft and Airbnb. That being said, these large companies would also likely be able to handle WeWork’s collapse, as they have the resources to maintain usage of office space currently leased to WeWork.

Though WeWork brands itself as a disruptive technology startup like Uber and Postmates, the reality is that WeWork is more like a glorified property-management company. Although the hype associated with WeWork’s tech-centered approach is responsible for much of its early success, technology turned out not to be a major factor in the company’s operation. While the future of WeWork as a whole remains uncertain but looks fairly dire, the future of coworking spaces is likely as bright as it’s ever been, as companies seek to take advantage of the flexibility such arrangements can provide.