Elevator issues cause major problem for Aventura assisted living facility

Management company has crews working overnight on elevators

AVENTURA, Fla. – Imperial Club touts itself to be "Aventura's finest independent and assisted-living rental retirement community."

Nearly 200 residents live in the 14-floor tower. Administrators told the "Leave it to Layron" team that the majority of Imperial's residents are 80 or older -- some have reached the centenarian club.

"Exceptional" was how Maurice Cohen, 95, described the staff. He said he's fairly new to the building.

His response changed when asked about the building's elevator service.  

"Terrible. (It's) very inconvenient for the patients," he said. 

The staff started posting signs and notices late last year, urging those in "urgent need of an elevator" to call the front desk.  Another notice that was posted advised that the smaller of the building's two elevators could only take people up.

In December, the facility's director penned a letter to residents, letting them know that a "software issue" was to blame for one of the elevator's breakdowns. The letter noted thousands of dollars had been spent to make needed repairs, and that more would be spent to ensure the "best possible elevator service."

Lidia Lechtman's 94-year-old mother moved into Imperial Club in June.  

"She came here because several of her friends are here," Lechtman said. 

One of those friends is Beile Axelrod's 97-year-old mother, who has lived at Imperial Club for seven years.

Axelrod said her mother had been happy at the facility before the elevator issues began.

"I don't want something to be done after someone is seriously hurt," she said.

Axelrod contacted the "Leave it to Layron" team after firefighters were called to the building one January weekend.  

She and her cousin got stuck in one of the elevators while visiting Axelrod's mother.

Ceci Berenthal was trying to get up to her aunt's floor when the elevator stopped. She said crews used a crowbar to pry open the doors so that she and her cousin could get out.

"Could you imagine somebody in a wheelchair or a walker?" she asked. 

Lechtman, Axelrod and Berenthal all called for the same thing: new elevators.

"We need to set their minds at ease," Axelrod said. 

When Local 10 News reporter Layron Livingston spoke with Imperial Club's on-site executive director, he was told both elevators were back "up and running" the day after firefighters freed Axelrod and Berenthal from inside.

"It was very sad and challenging that this elevator stopped midfloor," said Blake Vail, president of Triad Senior Living.

Triad is Imperial Club's management company.  

"We're always going to err on the abundance of caution and safety," Vail said. 

A representative with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said the agency has an ongoing investigation. 

Complaints about the elevator breakdowns prompted the agency to  perform inspections as recently as September and December. "Deficiencies" were cited during both visits.    

Vail said the goal is to make sure that Imperial Club had two well-running, safe elevators because one has to work while the other is being replaced. The next step, he said, will be modification and replacement.

He said hundreds of thousands of dollars has been paid to two companies to get the elevators working properly.

"This isn't a lack of care. This is not a lack of resources," Vail said. 

Vail said crews will work overnight to minimize the impact on residents. He said rental credits will also be given to residents during elevator service interruptions.

But making a 30-year-old elevator new again is not an overnight job.

"We're sorry for this inconvenience to our residents, and we believe we've done all we can to minimize it," Vail said. 

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