With a spotlight placed on condo building safety in the wake of the collapse of Surfside’s Champlain Towers, city building officials are under more pressure than ever to ensure resident safety. This past week, a popular Key West condominium was under intense scrutiny for just that. The Santa Clara Condo in Key West was on the chopping block at a hearing before the city’s chief building official Raj Ramsingh at Key West City Hall last week.
At the hearing, testimony was heard from two different engineers and Oliver Kofoid, the condo association board president, to determine if the building should be condemned or if it is suitable for habitation. The previous engineer at Santa Clara, JL Sanders, gave potentially damaging testimony stating that he resigned from his position at the Santa Clara due to the extensive nature of damage and repairs needed that were beyond his capabilities. Sanders detailed the many repair recommendations that he has made over the past many years, many of which were never completed or were only partially completed.
Following Sanders withdrawal, the condo association brought on Thomas Cheever - a prominent engineer out of Tampa. Cheever completed a three hour inspection of the building prior to the hearing. His report stated that, though there is significant damage, he confirmed that he was confident that it was repairable and need not be condemned.
After hearing all the testimony, Ramsingh decided to give Santa Clara Condos a temporary reprieve - pending all necessary repairs. Ramsingh was quite clear that if the building was not brought up to code, it would be condemned and deemed inhabitable. For the time being, all residents are free to continue living in the building. Work is set to begin in January and will be monitored closely by city officials. The issue will be revisited when all work is complete.