Saturday, October 2, 2010

Beyond The Fourth Stage: A Florida Failure

Banks win delay in demolition of abandoned Fort Lauderdale condo complex
By Scott Wyman September 16, 2010 06:37 PM
Big banking won out Thursday over a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood’s hopes that the city would order the demolition of an abandoned condo complex that’s become a haven for crime.
Debris is strewn across the 58-unit complex along the north fork of the New River. The doors and windows have been stripped away. Vandals have destroyed walls and ripped out copper wiring and plumbing. The city has been paying for metal shutters to keep away squatters.
City inspectors declared the New River Condominium to be a health and fire hazard, but banks won two delays over the summer to prevent its demolition. Residents of the River Gardens/Sweeting Estates neighborhood had hoped Thursday would bring an end to the delay, but instead a city board gave banks another 32 days to try to come up with a plan to salvage the property.
The extension came even though the banks offered the board no evidence of any plans being drawn up. They also had failed to follow through on promises to pay for the shutters – which are costing Fort Lauderdale taxpayers $6,000 a month.
“This is an unsafe structure and there has been delay after delay and continuance after continuance,” neighborhood activist Pamela Adams said.
The neighborhood, along with city building inspectors, began pressing in June to take the drastic step of razing the five buildings just off Sistrunk Boulevard. The complex had been converted to condos in 2005, but then came the recession and now almost every unit is either owned by a bank or in the process of foreclosure.
There’s been no running water for a year. The condo association is defunct. Police officers refer to the area as The Hole because it’s where suspects on the run often disappear. Nearby homeowners say drug-dealing and prostitution is rampant.
Bank lawyers told the city’s Unsafe Structures Board that they are committed to trying to find a way to redevelop the property and understand the city’s patience is at an end.
“I can’t believe it is so unsafe that it must be demolished immediately,” said Justin Hekkanen, a lawyer for Bank of America, which has an interest in about two-thirds of the units.
Members of the city board said the delay was almost certainly the last. Although some of the board said the banks had had enough time to act, others feared that demolition would guarantee the land sit vacant for years as a legal fight ensues over what would happen next.
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