Surfside condo that collapsed was going through recertification process

New building was being constructed next door

South Florida buildings must go through a 40-year recertification, and the Champlain Towers South was in the middle of renovations as part of that process.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The condo that collapsed in Surfside on Thursday morning was going through the 40-year recertification process that is required of South Florida buildings, Local 10 News has learned.

The Champlain Towers South building at 8777 Collins Ave. was built in 1981 with 12 stories and more than 130 units.

As part of the recertification process mandated after 40 years, the building hires engineers (electrical and structural) and they go through the facility from top to bottom. After the report is analyzed, repair work that was suggested is done.

That’s what was happening at this time, with work being done on the roof and elsewhere in the condo, officials say.

“The engineer has been working for many months to develop the specifications to work with the city,” said Kenneth Direktor, an attorney for Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc. “What was in its infancy was the actual construction, which had not started with the sole exception that they had already begun on the roof.”

Building was just starting work on roof as part of mandatory 40-year inspection.

The condo board was apparently on top of it, investing thousands of dollars to do recommended repairs.

A representative for the owner said that as part of the recertification they were going to be doing a concrete restoration project, but that was not yet underway.

Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said she was told a building inspector may have been onsite at the Champlain Towers as recently as Wednesday.

[ALSO SEE: FIU professor found sinking land at Surfside collapse site in 1990s]

But the condo’s attorney says he thinks it’s too early to conclude that the recertification work had anything to do with the collapse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing even close,” Direktor said. “And there are a lot of buildings around Florida that have already done their 40-year certification and needed extensive work, but nothing like this happened. Which is why I don’t think we’re anywhere near a point where we can develop an understanding of what caused this or find any correlation between the 40-year certification and what happened to this building.”

Questions are also being raised about whether the construction of a new building next door could have weakened this building.

Repairs at the condo were being made in accordance with a 40-year recertification that is mandatory for South Florida buildings, Local 10 News' Jeff Weinsier reports.

“This building has been under a lot of scrutiny lately with the 40-year recertification of the building and with the 88 Park building going up next door to the south,” Surfside Commissioner Charles Kesl told Local 10 News. “There were garage underground issues related to that, to make sure that it was done soundly.

“And, to my understanding, there were some cracks from that project — minor cracks — that were just patched up. Nothing, based on my understanding, to the magnitude that would indicate that there was a structural problem that could result in something so catastrophic.”

Salzhauer said that residents of the building she’s spoken to were not aware of any sort of problems that would cause damage like this.

[ALSO SEE: After Surfside collapse do you need to worry about your building?]

“I want to know why this happened. That’s really the only question,” she said. “Why did this happen, can it happen again, and are any other buildings in town in jeopardy? That is the key thing.”

State regulators say that the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes “does not have citations against the license holder (The Champlain Towers Condo Association), nor has it taken any administrative action against the license holder.”

Said former Surfside mayor Paul Novack: “It will all come out. It’s just way too soon to make any type of guess, or do any speculation, it would be the wrong thing to do. What we need to do is let the professionals do their work and meticulously tell us the precise answers to what happened.”

[ALSO SEE: Photos of Surfside building collapse]

About the Authors:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."