Daytona Beach Shores landmark Peck Plaza restoration from Hurricane Matthew could be done in January

Article Courtesy of  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Jim Abbot

Published October 8, 2019

DAYTONA BEACH SHORES — For owners and residents at the 29-story Peck Plaza condominium, Monday marks an inauspicious milestone.

It was three years ago, on Oct. 7, 2016, that Hurricane Matthew hit Volusia County, damaging the landmark tower and displacing occupants for restoration and repairs that have yet to be completed.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Greg Northrup, 72, who has owned a unit in the building for 25 years. “We get close and then there’s always some delay.”

As yet another anniversary of the storm approaches, the outlook for reopening the tower is more encouraging, said Liam Downey, Peck Plaza’s Community Association director. By the end of this month, Downey hopes that owners will be able to send in their own sub-contractors to start repair work on individual units, he said.

But residents themselves won’t be able to return until the building receives its certificate of occupancy, a process that is still likely to take several months, he said.

Once the tallest oceanfront structure on the Eastern Seaboard and still the county’s tallest building at 343 feet — at least until completion of the Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums a few miles north on State Road A1A — Peck Plaza is one of the area’s most noticeable lingering reminder of Matthew’s impact.

However, it’s not the only beachside property still shuttered because of a one-two punch from Matthew and then Hurricane Irma in 2017. On the north end of Daytona Beach, for instance, both the La Playa Beach Resort & Suites, across from Bellair Plaza, and the Americano Beach Resort remain closed because of storm damage.

Matthew caused an estimated $67.7 million in damages to Volusia County hotels and motels, according to the county Property Appraiser’s office, part of an overall total of nearly $600 million in damage in Volusia and Flagler counties.

A year later, Irma whacked Peck Plaza again, tearing a newly replaced AC unit off the roof and contributing to additional delays.

“It has been a hardship for the owners, but they have been very diligent and faithful in holding on for three years,” said David Everest, president of the 11-member condo association board of directors. “They like the way building is looking, the way it is progressing. Attention to detail takes longer, but in the end you have a more solid product. We do see a light at the end of the tunnel and I don’t think its a freight train.”

The last remaining hurdle to reopening for occupants is completing a pressurization process in the stairwells, required to bring the 1974 building into compliance with current fire safety codes, Downey said. It will be the final step in a restoration that represents a $14 million investment, up from the project’s initial $10 million estimate.

“We’re still waiting for some of the paperwork to be approved, and then it’s a three-month job,” said Downey, who is pushing to start the pressurization work soon enough to enable owners and residents to start returning sometime in January.

“Conforming a building built in 1974 to 2019 regulations is a bit of a problem,” he said. “The building has two stairwells, but it’s almost like a DNA matrix. Even though they are separate, they still intersect with each other.”

It’s not the first challenge presented by a combination of the building’s age and its distinctive, glass-dominated cylindrical design. After three years, installation of 1,500 new windows that encircle the tower is finally complete, except for two remaining windows on the building’s club level, Downey said.

Because of complications involved with obtaining and installing the windows, that part of the project took 19 months longer than anticipated, said Edwin Peck Jr., president of Peck & Associates Construction, the project’s general contractor.

Peck’s father, Edwin Sr., developed the original building.

“This building will be almost a new building by the time we get through with it,” Peck said. “It should last another 50 years.”

On a recent afternoon, crews worked on sanding interior door frames to prepare them for painting in coming weeks. Much of the remaining work involves adding updated safety features including a first-responder communication system and a series of fire-preventative “water curtains” for windows.

“For those two things, we’re probably the first building in Volusia County to put those in,” Peck said. “They will be required in all the other condos at some point, so we’ll be way ahead of the curve as far as regulations go.”

In addition to displacing 87 owners and tenants in 98 condominium units, the lengthy restoration project also shuttered Top of Daytona, the well-known restaurant and bar atop the tower.

Owners of the restaurant couldn’t be reached this week, but Downey said they plan to reopen. They are facing the same obstacles as condo owners, he said.

“I know they intend to re-open,” Downey said. “There’s work going on right now with their fire system and that will help the whole building to move ahead. They are just like owners of the units. They have to wait for the certificate of occupancy to get things rolling.”

Despite the long wait, only two condo owners have sold their units, Downey said.

“It has been fantastic the amount of owners who want to see the community back whole again, to move back home again,” Downey said. “There has been a lot of butting heads with the (condo) association board and some of the contractors, but the amount of patience everyone has shown is really outstanding.”

In addition to the cost of repairing units, owners also continue to pay $525 monthly maintenance fees.

“It has been very costly for all of the owners,” said Northrup, who lives in the condo with his wife, Teresa, as their primary residence. “I doubt anybody is going to spend less than $50,000 to $60,000 on repairs. It’s just been a hardship on everybody financially.”

Community loyalty might not be the main reason that owners haven’t been selling, Northrup said.

“If you sell it now, you’re not going to get anything for it,” he said. “People don’t want to buy in a building that’s not put back together. I imagine there will be some people selling when they can make a good profit — after it’s put back together.”