Buckley Towers to get $18 million renovation

Buckley Towers, just outside of North Miami Beach, will have its concrete restored and its electrical system updated to ensure its two high rises are structurally safe.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By Donna Gehrke-White

Published February 6, 2011

Buckley Towers, near North Miami Beach, will have its concrete restored and electrical system updated as the county inspectors oversee the massive project.

The condo association for the complex’s 564 units is already at work, bidding out the projects, President Peggy A. Stroker said. The association should have contractors within a couple of months, she added.

The renovation averages out to about $32,000 per unit but Stroker says unpaid insurance claims from 2005’s Hurricane Wilma will help pay for the massive work. The association has been in court over the non-payment.

“I believe in the judicial system," Stroker said. “I believe we will prevail."

Two weeks ago, the Miami-Dade Unsafe Structures Board gave the condo association 53 months to make all the repairs after the complex had been cited for repeated violations. Stroker vowed the condos will meet the deadline. Buckley Towers is also committed to filing on time its required 90-day updates on work done, she said.

Board members “were stern, but they want the right thing done," added Stroker, who also is a vice chair on the Miami-Dade Community Council.

Buckley Towers, located in the 1300 block of Northeast Miami Gardens Drive, has missed previous deadlines but Stroker is part of a new board that has been finishing work on time, said Ricardo “Rick” Roig, director of the Miami-Dade Building Code Support Office.

Buckley Towers on Miami Gardens Drive, which suffered damage from Hurricane Wilma, will undergo a multi-million renovation.

County records show that building inspectors have been citing the twin towers for more than two years. One concern was the lack of work done to repair the two buildings’ roofs after Wilma, Roig said. That work has been recently completed, Stroker said. Indeed, part of the reason the condo association owes more than $1 million is because of the repairs to the roof, she said.

Buckley Towers also did not complete the required 40-year structural inspection but an engineer is now working on that.

The engineer has done a preliminary inspection and certified the complex’s two buildings are safe for occupancy – which the county was demanding, Roig said. “We requested that would be taken care of immediately and the engineer took responsibility," he said.

“Let me say this: The towers are not in dire shape," Roig added.

But the county wants to make sure older buildings are safe. The required 40-year inspection of buildings was instituted in the 1970s after a major older complex collapsed, Roig said. His department is in charge of overseeing the 40-year inspections for the unincorporated part of the county. Cities, including Miami, Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach, watch over the 40-year inspections in their boundaries.

Buckley Towers’ two buildings each have 17 floors and are among the county’s oldest high rise condominium properties. The complex was once a haven for well-off snowbirds. The complex has since attracted buyers who live and work year-round in Miami-Dade.

Buckley Towers has been beset with problems after Hurricane Wilma did major damage in 2005. Then the real estate market collapsed and many owners stopped paying their association dues. At one point half the owners were not contributing to the condo complex’s maintenance, but Stroker took over a year ago and has reduced that to about a third.

The economic woes contributed to the previous board not making repairs and following through on the required 40-year inspection, Stroker said.

Building officials said they were sympathetic -- but they still have to think of residents' safety.

While Buckley Towers’ work is being done in the next 4 ½ years, unit owners and renters will be required to evacuate if there a hurricane watch, Roig said.

 That’s fine with condo board president Stroker.

Roig added that other older buildings in north Miami-Dade have also had financial problems but the great majority have maintained their properties and are structurally sound.

One of the main concerns for the 40-year inspection is to make sure salt water has not eroded buildings’ concrete to the point of threatening the structure. In 2005, for example, about 30 feet of a stairwell collapsed at the aging two-story Seashore condominium complex in Sunny Isles Beach. Officials blamed it on spalling – or the salt water erosion -- not being detected until the stairwell collapsed.

Like many other older buildings in South Florida, Buckley Towers has evidence of spalling but unit owners and renters will not have to move while crews work on restoring the concrete, Stroker said.

“The concrete restoration will be done in two different phases," she said.

The electrical work will update the two buildings’ wiring, making them safer, Stroker added.

An added bonus is that the work will “make the buildings environmentally friendly and conserve energy," she said. “That will save on utility bills down the road."

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