Structural Engineers Behind Champlain Towers Also Behind Structurally Plagued Former Coral Gables Public Safety Building

Ariel Fernandez

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In 1974, the City of Coral Gables completed the construction of its then state-of-the-art Public Safety Building at 2801 Salzedo Street. The structure was an upgrade for the Coral Gables Police and Fire Departments and provided ample space for personnel, in addition to indoor parking for the fire fleet and included a large parking garage for the police fleet.

Over the years, however, the building began to show signs of large concern.

Breiterman Jurado & Associates

According to EMPORIS, an online buildings database, the structural engineering firm responsible for the 1974 Coral Gables Public Safety Building was Breiterman Jurado & Associates, a Coral Gables based firm, the same structural engineering firm on record of the now collapsed Champlain Towers South and its sister building, Champlain Towers North in 1981. Breiterman Jurado & Associates was dissolved in 1992.

Although the exact cause of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South, which has now claimed the lives of at least 97 people, remains under investigation. Many questions have arisen about the structural integrity of the structure. Most of them, reported throughout the years leading to the tower’s demise on early morning hours of June 24th.

Structural Concerns At 2801 Salzedo

Similarly, the structural integrity of the Coral Gables Public Safety Building was called into question in a November 2014 assessment by Ferguson, Glasgow, Schuster, Soto, Inc. following an assessment at the 40-year mark of the public safety building’s completion.

The assessment was created with the intent of providing the City with options on how to address numerous concerns in a referenced study conducted by engineering experts from Douglas Wood & Associates and EMTec Corporation. At the time of publishing, Gables Insider has not yet received a copy of this report.

Although some of the issues were noticeable by staff in the building at the time, the extent of the issues were eye-opening to the City and resulted in immediate changes at the Public Safety Building, and the eventual construction of the new Police and Fire Headquarters Building at 2151 Salzedo Street.

Fire Bay

The assessment states that, “Fire apparatus bay floor structure does not [have] sufficient design capacity to meet the loading requirements of the Fire Department apparatus housed in this facility. Floor slabs, joists and beams must be strengthened to meet operational requirements. Slabs inadequate relative to accepted structural engineering practice. Joist design information is unavailable, it is suspected that adequate shear capacity of single joists is doubtful…two to eight beams are overstressed in shear.”

In other words, the structure may not be able to continue to hold the weight of the fire trucks in the bay.

The City acted quickly and the larger fire trucks and rescue vehicles were immediately moved to the sidewalk adjacent to the building, to prevent a collapse of the floors into the basement. These units had to be moved to the Shops at Merrick Park during tropical systems to protect them from potential damage.

Parking Garage

The parking garage behind the building, also had structural issues. “Many locations with corroded reinforcement and spalled concrete need repair. Numerous failing previous patches need repair…Vehicle Barrier Wall appears to be structurally inadequate relative to current design loads and structural practice and must be either replaced or proper system installed. Miscellaneous broken planter/curb to be repair(e)d or replaced; Cracks througout to be repaired and sealed.”

Basement

The basement of the structure, was showing serious concerns as well. “Floor Cracks, corroded reinforcement and spalled concrete must be repaired. This condition is particularly significant at northside columns/walls. Elevated chloride ion concentrations were found indicating water intrusion damage. Opening in wall at southeast corner stair needs further investigation.”

In addition, the basement experienced regular flooding, “The basement has experienced flooding during storm conditions. The existing basement storm sump pump system has operational issues.” The basement at the Public Safety Building had been flooding for years.

Similarities To Issues At Champlain

Over the years, numerous repairs had been done to address the concerns at the Public Safety Building. Although, the totality of the concerns eventually led the City to decide to build a new structure.

Some of the work that had been done to the Public was similar to the work that had been required at the Champlain Towers South building as early as 1996.

In March of 1996, the Champlain Towers South had a company work on the garage, “removing loose concrete overheard, treating steel rebar with rust inhibitive coating,” as well as “urethane foam injection in ceiling cracks.” At the time, they addressed 500 linear feet of cracks in the building, which was only 15-years-old.

Over the years, the scope of the work at Champlain, like at the Public Safety Building continued to grow. However, the similarities in issues raise concerns over the work conducted by Breiterman Jurado & Associates.

Gables Insider has not been able to find a link to the company and any other Coral Gables buildings at this time, but the firm did work on numerous other buildings in Miami-Dade County, including Champlain Towers North. Champlain Towers North has been under investigation since the collapse of its sister tower and many residents have evacuated over concerns for their safety.

Future of 2801 Salzedo Street

The deal to build the new Police and Fire Headquarters building was made possible due to a land swap of the old Public Safety Building property for the land where the new building currently stands, with a developer. Since then, the developer has once again swapped the land with Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables.

Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables is presently working to address issues in the building and retrofit the structurally challenged building into a showroom. The City’s permit database shows numerous open permits addressing some of the concerns.

The City

Gables Insider reached out to the City for comment, they responded with the following statement: “The safety of our buildings and people is always of upmost concern. As the previous owner and tenant of the building we did have some issues which were addressed throughout the years. At no time were there concerns relative to the life-safety of this structure. As with all construction and refurbishments projects, the city conducts a rigorous plans review and construction inspection process. Should any issues arise, they will be addressed throughout with the contractor and owners. Currently, there are no concerns with the stability of the structure.”

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8 thoughts on “Structural Engineers Behind Champlain Towers Also Behind Structurally Plagued Former Coral Gables Public Safety Building

  1. The Miami Herald has published an article restating, ergo confirming,the findings contained herein.

    This is an extraordinary accomplishment of tGables Insider, which I will bring to the attention of Pulitzer Prize people.

  2. I have finally read this extraordinary article from start to finish.

    Obviously, this is extraordinary investigative journalism, with both profound insight and profound repercussions if thoroughly investigated.

    This will keep us talking for many months, if not indeed years, considering it is the Police Station. Did City Government disclose the structural dangers of the building at the time?

    How’s come nobody knew?

    Sincerely,

    Jackson Rip Holmes

  3. So, Bill Ussery is going to jam park its GWagons over the basement? If I could afford one, they’d have to bring it to the road for me to test drive it!
    That is, unless they fill that basement with concrete, like the developer of Oceana in Key Biscayne was made to do.

  4. Thank you, Gables Insider for providing illuminating and vitally needed information to the residents of Coral Gables. The city is obviously in great need of citizen awareness and oversight into many convoluted actions that would otherwise remain under the table with little to no awareness. I look forward to your publication each time it is received. Also kudos to Commissioner Rhonda Anderson for truly working to represent the residents not the developers parade that gets rubber stamped by too many others. I don’t think George Merrick would be pleased with any of the shenanigans that have taken place

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