NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – North Miami Beach building and zoning department officials condemned Crestview Towers Condominium and ordered about 300 residents to evacuate Friday. Some families learned about it just hours before the midnight deadline. Many were just getting home from work when they heard the news.
Some rushed to pack stuff in suitcases and garbage bags. Many grabbed pets and plants. By Friday night, about 150 residents who didn’t have a place to go were transported to a shelter at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo Center.
A white North Miami Beach Parks & Recreation bus and a trolley were parked outside of the condominium, at 2025 NE 164th St., in North Miami Beach, waiting to transport the residents.
The shelter was already prepared by the American Red Cross in case it was needed if Hurricane Elsa impacted South Florida.
“This is not something we would ordinarily do,” said Ron Book, who chairs the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. “We are in a unique time in this community . . . It was our goal to try to find a very quick solution.”
Luis Gutierrez is one of the dozens of residents forced to evacuate. He woke up Saturday morning at the shelter.
“I tried to get some sleep but it’s not the same as sleeping in your apartment, and that’s the problem,” he said.
“When this whole thing happened in Surfside, and they said they were going to investigate, I knew it was coming,” said Sonia Bortolin, another resident, who has lived in Crestview Towers for 27 years.
“Shocked, I’m not,” she said. “I mean, it’s been overdue, the certification. Our board of directors that we had have been very, very negligent over the years.”
A special commission meeting was held Saturday night at the Julius Littman Performing Arts Theater in North Miami Beach to discuss the evacuation.
City officials confirmed engineers have been hired on both sides to inspect the building.
The city manager says that any decision on the building will not be made until Wednesday at the earliest.
After the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, North Miami Beach officials launched a review of condo high-rise buildings to determine compliance with the 40-year recertification process to determine if it was certified as safe for occupancy.
The 156-unit Crestview Towers Condominium was built in 1972. According to Arthur H. Sorey III, the city manager, Crestview Towers submitted a Jan. 11 report showing an engineer retained by the association board concluded the building “was structurally and electrically unsafe.” Sorey said the city received the report about 2 p.m.
“The report spoke of spalling concrete. We know that is a buzzword these days, so when we saw that in the report, we knew we had to act immediately,” Sorey said.
Book said the building was condemned about 4 p.m. Friday. It mentioned poor surface conditions, concrete spalling, and signs of moisture on balcony slabs. Harold Dauphin, who recently moved to the building with his son, was appalled that nobody told him about this report before he moved in.
“If you walk around, you see some cracks in the walls and stuff like that,” Dauphin said. “Nobody knew. I didn’t know that the building was deemed unsafe since January. And now we are what? July 2nd? Makes no sense, six months later.”
Attorney Mariel Tollinchi, who represents the Crestview Homeowners Association, told Local 10 News that the association didn’t know that the city hadn’t been notified about the report.
She said they were under the impression the engineer would be sending the report directly to city officials.
“Were those findings ever brought to the residents?” Local 10 News reporter Trent Kelly asked.
“They were. They actually were back in September,” Tollinchi said. “A notice was communicated to all of the residents here, letting them know of all the repairs that needed to be made, along with pictures.”
But according to residents we spoke to, they were told the repairs were cosmetic and say they never knew the problems were so dire.
“I figured it was just a matter time. I didn’t think it would be this drastic though,” Bortolin said. “Never imaged that they were going to evacuate the building . . . I knew we had issues, but not that great.”
Officials saio audits will continue for buildings throughout the city of North Miami Beach.
Displaced residents of Crestview Towers are expected to be moved to a hotel on Monday.
“Everything now falls on the condo association as far as getting people back in the building or to declare that building just structurally unsafe moving forward,” Sorey said.
North Miami Beach activated a special hotline for building residents that will operate from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice, according to the city. The number is (786) 589-4056.
Related document: Jan. 11 report
Related social media
Crestview Towers resident said she and her dogs have to find a place to stay. She says the building has had ‘issues’ but declined to specify pic.twitter.com/T37QKnk5og— Janine Stanwood (@JanineStanwood) July 2, 2021
Editorial note: Local 10 News has pending information requests with the Crestview Towers Condominium management company and the condo association.