Residents of a condo building in Coral Gables have been told they will no longer need to evacuate their homes after emergency measures were taken over the weekend to address fears of structural concerns in the underground parking garage.
A city inspector first flagged the building, which overlooks Granada Golf Course at 730 Coral Way, after a resident contacted staff at the end of June to report concerns in the garage. The complaint was filed four days after the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, which killed nearly 100 people in what may be the most deadly building failure in U.S. history.
The city sent its chief building inspector to perform a visual inspection, which concluded that “additional action was necessary,” city spokeswoman Martha Pantin wrote in a statement.
The city then contacted the building’s condo association, Greenways Condominium of Coral Gables Association Inc., which handed over a four-year-old report that identified significant issues that were never addressed.
“The city reacted poorly to that report,” said association President Larry Silvester, who was elected during an emergency meeting Saturday. “The board should have taken action in 2017. The board didn’t tell the rest of the residents about this study. In hindsight, that was a huge mistake.”
On July 19, the association received a final notice explaining that the roughly 25 residents of the 11-unit building had to leave by Monday, Silvester said. He noted that most of the residents are elderly, including four octogenarians and one resident who is homebound.
The eight-page report from 2017, which was obtained by the Miami Herald, pointed out poor drainage around the pool, cracks in the concrete pavers around the pool deck, “severe corrosion” of reinforced steel and large areas of spalling concrete in the basement parking garage.
“This condition is a direct result from water intrusion through the pool deck slab,” senior engineer Javier Rodriguez of m2e Consulting Engineers wrote. “The present condition of the [pool] wall may be hazardous and may represent a life safety situation in case concrete pieces get detached from the wall.”
Rodriguez recommended the cracked and spalling conrete be repaired and steel reinforcement near the pool be addressed as soon as possible. He also recommended new waterproofing and a “complete redesign” of the basement slab.
A new engineer hired by the association this month came to look at the building, which was built in 1986 and overlooks the Granada Golf Course. The firm recommended the association install at least 40 shoring poles in the garage, empty the pool and remove tile around the pool deck so a full inspection can begin, Silvester said.
The initial work was done Saturday, and the association expects to get recommendations for next steps by Friday. City building staff spoke to the engineer and saw the shoring Monday morning before determining that residents were safe to stay while work was being done, Silvester said.
Resident Michael Toussaint, who has lived in the building since he was 5 years old, said “you can tell it’s deteriorated, but not to the point it’s concerning or fearing for our lives.”
“People just got freaked out because [of the Surfside] collapse,” said Toussaint, 25, who is a medical student. “As far as my building, it’s only a few stories tall so because of that it’s not as concerning to me.”
On Saturday, residents voted unanimously to spend $50,000 on the initial work. Once they have an estimate for the rest of the work, the association expects to pass a special assessment as well as approach local banks for construction loans, Silvester said.
The timeline is sped up under threat of evacuation, which Silvester said is necessary.
“The city is doing what it should have done, though having a gun to our heads is very uncomfortable,” he said.
He said he is certain there are other buildings in Coral Gables and across the county facing similar issues. The imminent threat of evacuation kicked his association into gear, and he believes the tactic will be used in other places where associations may be putting off structural work on their buildings.
Miami-Dade County has about 1,000 unsafe-structure cases and is now under pressure to pick up the pace on addressing the problematic structures. In Miami Beach alone, inspectors have visited more than 500 older buildings undergoing Miami-Dade County’s 40-year recertification process, which requires structural and electrical evaluations of older buildings after 40 years, and every 10 years after that. Two county-owned apartment buildings are also facing unsafe-structure violations for not securing their required recertifications.
“I think there’s no question that there are many buildings in Coral Gables and in other locations in Miami that have this or more serious problems,” he said. “The HOAs encounter a lot of resistance from owners to pony up. The city is probably going to be using this threat in other locations. We are probably a trial balloon at this point.”
In the next week, the city will send notices to all buildings older than 30 years, offering free inspections by the city’s chief building inspector.
Residents of Coral Gables are encouraged to report any issues with their buildings to DevelopmentServices@coralgables.com.