SURFSIDE, Fla. – Following an outcry from families who lost loved ones in the Surfside building collapse over DAMAC Properties’ plan to place a loading zone and trash pick-up along 88th Street, the developer on Tuesday said it has amended its plans.
The area in question had, in a 2022 town resolution, been designated as a memorial park to honor the victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse.
The developer said it now plays to relocate its “refuse holding area to the building basement” and create a pathway from the basement to a refuse collection point at Collins Avenue and 88th Street which avoids the use of 88th Street.
“The developer is trying to dig themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into here from the get go, they should have been more respectful of the memorial and the families,” said former Surfside Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer. “They can’t defend it, there is no way to defend putting garbage on a memorial and pretending that is respectful, but putting a loading dock shouldn’t be there altogether either. That street is for a memorial and emergency use only. Someone’s delivery is not an emergency. The loading dock needs to move, they should not be on 88th Street at all, 88th Street should be closed as a memorial from this day forward.”
This comes a day before the developer will be asking the full town commission for site plan approval.
“The idea here is for them to move the loading dock,” said Surfside Commissioner Nelly Velasquez. “They are not moving the loading dock, according to the plans that I received.”
And something else caught her eye in those plans. Velasquez said the developer is indicating that 88th Street will be their construction staging area.
“In review of these plans, they are proposing to do all of their plans on 88th Street, (meaning) that this memorial will not be built for another four to five years,” said Velasquez. “They also have an issue with the flood zone, because property sits on a A/E flood zone, so in order to do this underground parking lot they want, the way that they want, the entire lot needs to be ‘X’ zone. So technically, this plan as it sits, does not meet our code. I don’t even understand why this plan is being brought to the commissioner when clearly it doesn’t meet the town code.”
Flood zoning for that area, Velazquez said, is set with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, yet another reason why she thinks going to the full commission at this stage is “premature.”
Tuesday evening, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava sent a letter to Surfside’s mayor and town commissioners reiterating the county’s continued support for a memorial and offering to help “resolve these issues and bring this important project to life.”
🔔 New Since 6pm: “We understand there are some outstanding questions related to the site plan and the use of 88th Street.” Just before 8pm @MayorDaniella sent attached letter via email to Surfside’s Mayor and Town Commission expressing County’s continued support for a memorial. pic.twitter.com/jtPRucGJS6— Christina Boomer Vazquez, M.S. (@CBoomerVazquez) September 27, 2023
In the meantime, a large “Rally for Rememberance” demonstration is planned at town hall about all this on Wednesday ahead of the scheduled 6 p.m. meeting.
STATEMENT FROM DMAC
“DAMAC International, the luxury global property developer who purchased the 1.8-acre site at 8777 Collins Avenue in Surfside with plans for an iconic Zaha Hadid Architects-designed 12-story tower, announced they have addressed the concerns of some members of the Champlain Towers memorial committee regarding refuse collection and the building’s service access bay along 88th Street.
“The developer has now resubmitted amended plans in accordance with the Town’s new policy.
“At the recent Planning & Zoning meeting on August 31st, officials announced new town guidelines stating that refuse would no longer be collected on private property, but would rather be collected on the roadside. This raised concerns from a few memorial committee members of the proximity of the refuse collection point and the building’s service bay access to the planned partial road closure of 88th Street to accommodate the memorial park for the Champlain Towers tragedy.
“DAMAC International amended the plans with their architect and has relocated the refuse holding area to the building basement and created a pathway that arrives from the basement to the refuse collection point and avoids the use of 88th Street.
“A Town Memorandum dated September 12th stated: “The collection point designated will be at the junction of 88th and Collins, and this location will also be used for sanitation personnel staging during the waste collection of both properties abutting 88th Street. The town designated this area to be of low impact on the quality of the area while optimizing sanitation personnel safety.
“Additionally, the area will not have an impact on the proposed memorial park as the footprint is adjacent to an existing driveway. The location was coordinated with the proposed 88th Street closure. The sanitation collection schedule for commercial properties is from 7:00 am to 10:00 am. The expected staging for the proposed development is 5 minutes per pick-up day, which is scheduled differently for every property depending on the customer’s needs.”
“As part of this review, DAMAC International has also been able to reposition the building’s service access bay further west by 15 feet resulting in more open spaces along 88th Street for the memorial park.”
“The change in the Town’s policy allowed us the opportunity to enhance the open spaces available for the memorial park and addressed the sensitivity around this topic,’’ said Niall Mc Loughlin, DAMAC International Senior Vice President of Communications. ‘’We appreciate the opportunity to welcome 8777 Collins Avenue into our property family and do our part as a new member of this great community by using our resources to make an impact on the quality of life for all who live, work, and visit there.”
Over the phone, the Surfside Town Manager told Local 10 News’ Christina Vazquez there was no “change” to town policy as stated by the developer in its statement.
Instead he said it clarified for DAMAC what the existing policy is:
“Public Works Department collects all commercial waste from the Town’s Right of Way (ROW).”