MIAMI — The search and rescue mission continues in Surfside on Thursday where a 12-story oceanfront condo tower, Champlain Towers South, partially collapsed. The town of Surfside, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean west to Biscayne Bay, is on the same barrier island as Miami Beach, just south of the luxury Bal Harbour Shops.
Here’s what we know about the building:
Champlain Towers South was built in 1981 and is on the oceanfront.
The Champlain Towers South Condo at 8777 Collins Ave was 40 years old. The 12-story, 130-unit building, which was completed in 1981, was the first project to be built in the area after Miami-Dade County placed a moratorium on new developments during the 1970s, said Daniel Ciraldo, executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League.
Surfside struggled financially during the 1970s, Ciraldo said, and its water and sewer systems had degraded. The county required the town to upgrade its water and sewer systems before approving any projects.
Champlain Towers South Associates, the developer of Champlain Towers South, paid Surfside $200,000 in late 1979 — half of the cost for a new sewer system. With the new system in place, construction soon started on the project, Ciraldo said.
Once completed, international buyers flocked to the building. “A lot of foreign people were moving to South Florida for political stability that we had in the United States,” he said. “They wanted to live on the beach.”
Amenities in the 136-unit building included a pool, gym, barbecue area, tennis courts and a parking garage, “which was a newer thing,” Ciraldo said, “compared to hotels, where you just drove up to the entrance.”
County inspectors were reviewing the 40-year-old building, Ciraldo said. According to the Miami-Dade County building code, all residential buildings are required to undergo a re-certification process when they hit 40 years. The process includes inspections to ensure the building is habitable and safe.
“The building was in OK shape,” said a Realtor with Compass who has multiple listings in the building and spoke on condition of anonymity. “They were just starting repairs to upgrade.”
The association recently hired an engineer to develop specifications for electrical and structural changes needed to obtain the re-certification, a requirement of Miami-Dade County, but had not yet started construction.
“They were well into the review with the engineer about the project,” said Kenneth Direktor, an attorney with the law firm Becker who has represented the association for the last five years.
Condo association meetings were well attended, Direktor said, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic over Zoom. Direktor described the community as “active and engaged.”
“There are working people, families with kids, people of retirement age,” he said. “Not a particular ethnicity or particular religion. It is a diverse community.”
Nearly 70% of Champlain Towers was occupied by primary homeowners and second homeowners, Romanello said by email and text. Units ranged from 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom homes to 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom homes. Prices ranged from $500,000 to $1.2 million. Penthouse unit 1012, a Compass spokesperson said, sold for $1.1 million in January 2020.
Ron Book, chairman of the county’s Homeless Trust board, said Thursday the agency expects most Champlain Towers residents have the means to find temporary housing or stay with family or friends in the area. Only a few people need help who are from out of town, he said, and the agency is working on finding them lodging. “There are a couple of families who are tourists,” he said.
Living at Champlain Towers South came with a hefty price tag. Condos recently for sale in the building were listed at $600,000 to $699,000, according to multiple real estate websites.
One three-bed two-bath unit on the ninth floor, about 1,748 square feet, sold on on June 17, 2021 for $710,000, according to Zillow.
A four-bed four-bath penthouse suite, about 4,500 square feet sold on May 11, 2021, for $2,880,000, according to Zillow. It had floor to ceiling windows, marble floors with an oversized wrap around balcony.