Developer has worked closely with Surfside to address its needs after tragedy | Opinion

I’m writing in response to Surfside Commissioner Marianne Meischeid’s Sept. 10 op-ed regarding the 8777 Collins Avenue project.

Last year, DAMAC realized a dream to bring its real estate brand to Miami.

When we purchased the site of collapsed Champlain Towers South from the receiver, all proceeds went directly to victims’ families. We can never replace what was lost so painfully in Surfside and no single entity can ever do justice to a community’s memory. But we can and will add meaningful value to this beachside haven.

DAMAC worked closely with the town to design a code-compliant loading and sanitation plan, which will have as minimal an impact as possible. With just 52 units, the demands of the development will be small. The loading area was located as far west as possible while still allowing the cityʼs sanitation trucks to enter and park in a full loading space. A rolling door will shield the loading area from public view except when in use, and all trash receptacles will be located in an enclosed, air-conditioned room until removed.

The proposed design reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board assumed, per town policy at the time, that the sanitation trucks would need to enter the site, park in a loading space and pick up trash from that location. The plan was designed to meet the townʼs needs.

On Aug. 2, DAMAC and Ocean Engineering had a pre-application meeting with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation — FDOT. The driveways along Collins Avenue and the restrictions of the sight triangle were discussed. DAMAC and Ocean Engineering mentioned the loading dock will be located on 88th Street. Since FDOT does not have jurisdiction over this road it did not object to this location. DAMAC and Ocean Engineering also discussed the sight triangle, which encroaches into the property because of the angle of Collins Avenue. FDOT said no obstructions taller than 3.5’ would be permitted.

FDOT was aware of DAMAC’s plan for sanitation and the loading dock on 88th Street, consistent with our traffic consultant’s advice that a loading zone entrance on an arterial roadway typically will result in traffic interruptions and potential safety concerns, and aligned with FDOT’s normal practice.

DAMAC’s comments during the Planning and Zoning meeting on Aug. 31 were made in good faith and consistent with its interpretation and the general advice from its consultants based on the knowledge of FDOT’s standard operating procedures. Unfortunately, given the tragedy, raw emotions and political motivations as elections approach, the comment that the ‘FDOT doesn’t care’ was taken out of context instead of speaking to the regulatory issues.

The Town of Surfside Resolution No. 2022-2853, signed on Jan. 11, 2022 by former Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer, former Mayor Charles Burkett and current Commissioner Nelly Velazquez, acknowledges that the road for the memorial was never to be closed to all traffic. It says: ‘The closure of any portion of 88th Street to vehicular traffic is subject to the maintenance of emergency or governmental vehicular access and any access required to reach property north and south of the street-end.’

In the spirit of goodwill, after hearing family members’ concerns, DAMAC met with Surfside to find a more acceptable solution for the sanitation-collection strategy, which would no longer access 88th Street near the proposed memorial.

DAMAC is taken aback by such remarks as it has “blood on its hands.” DAMAC had nothing to do with the collapse of the building. As noted, in the resolution: “The court has directed the sale of the property without any condition for a memorial to be located on the property which is to be sold with proceeds going into a compensation fund to address victim claims.”

DAMAC is honored to be involved in the future of Miami and the wonderful community of Surfside. It, too, deserves respect and should not be made a scapegoat in this terrible tragedy.

Niall McLoughlin is senior vice president of communications for DAMAC International.