City’s Process For 40-Year Building Inspections Questionable

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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Following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside on June 24th, Gables Insider asked the City for its list of buildings completed prior to 1982. The response, was that the City does not have one.

What we received was an excel file with a list of over 8,000 property entries created by the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s office on March 28, 2016.

At first glance, the five-year-old list seems to list all buildings in Coral Gables with their “YR BUILT” (Year Built), however, entering some of the addresses on Google and seeing the buildings at those sites reveals a much different picture.

The first entry on the list is 106 Ponce de Leon Blvd. It states the building was “built” in 1906. The building would be 115-years-old.

A Google Streetview of the property reveals a much different picture. It is a Publix that was completed in the last 10 years.

Searching additional properties on the list yielded many similar findings of buildings that were clearly not completed on the year the list states they were.

The City’s Process

The City explained that this list is the one used to generate letters to the building owners in February of each year reminding them of their need to comply with the necessary inspections, like the 40-year inspection Champlain Towers South had due this year.

When asked for a list of buildings mailed this year, we were once again told, this is the only list.

Although the circumstances related to the collapse at Champlain Towers South are still under investigation, questions have started to rise about the impacts of water leaks from the building’s pool, water intrusion in the building’s underground parking garage, as well as the impacts of sea level rise.

These issues are not specific to Surfside alone and are also impacting Coral Gables.

The Biltmore Hotel

Built in 1926, the Biltmore Hotel standing at 315 feet, featured the largest swimming pool in the world. Today, the pool remains a 600,000 gallon feature that attracts tourists and locals to the structure for a swim or a meal around the pool. The pool sits just a few feet outside the walls of the building.

Over the years there have been numerous concerns over the lack of maintenance to the building and the visible disrepair. The Biltmore is owned by the City of Coral Gables and operated by an outside company.

Gables Insider requested copies of any structural repairs, inspections or concerns reported about issues at any City buildings. The request has not been answered at the time of publishing.

The David William

The David William is located at 700 Biltmore Way. It is located above the aquifer which feeds Coral Gables’ Venetian Pool.

The David William, according to the City’s list was built in 1989. However, the building was actually built in the 1960s.

It has been reported that during the construction of the building’s 300 car underground parking garage, the diggers struck the aquifer and were forced to strengthen the retaining walls of the garage. This was in 1964.

Over the last few years, the David William has been forced to evacuate the garage due to flooding, seeking parking for over 150 vehicles at a given time.

Sea Level Rise

Coral Gables is a coastal City. Most of our high-rises are concentrated in the northern part of the City, but there are buildings on Edgewater Drive that are on the coast.

But according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), they are not the only ones that could feel an impact.

According to a September 2020 study by the USGS, the effects of sealevel rise could affect the height of the water tables.

The study, conducted in California, states that, “a new model that combines sea-level rise scenarios and information about associated groundwater level responses shows that coastal water tables will rise as groundwater levels are pushed up by landward intrusions of seawater due to sea-level rise.”

City Set To Discuss

Over three weeks after the tragedy in Surfside, the City is finally addressing its 40-year inspections at today’s, July 13th City Commission meeting, but in a surprising move, the item has been given little priority placed as the second to last item on an extremely packed agenda.


2 thoughts on “City’s Process For 40-Year Building Inspections Questionable

  1. Mr Durana is right on the money… We need, now, we demand a comprehensive study of all buildings over four stories in height and over 40 years since construction. This needs to be a coordinated and systematic approach to identify issues that impact safety. And it must be done NOW!

  2. Would our City be trying to sweep/squeegee this under the rug? Bear in mind, our current City Manager is the City’s former Building Official/structural engineer.
    One would think that several, perennially floodingresidential towers, built over the aquifer, would qualify for emergency inspection. Most other cities in the county are scrutinizing similarly vulnerable buildings post haste. I can still remember the imbroglio surrounding the Segovia (Venice?) Tower’s construction over the aquifer!
    Is it possible we don’t want to hurt the real estate market and diminish our tax base? Scare off Yankee refugees investors? Torpedoes be damned, snail speed ahead!

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