Hollywood trailer park goes under contract to developer

Phase 2 of the Pinnacle 441 apartments is planned at 6028 Johnson St., Hollywood.

The developer has proposed a 7-story project here.

Pinnacle aims to redevelop a trailer park in Hollywood to build the second phase of its affordable housing project.

The city’s Technical Advisory Committee on Sept. 6 will consider plans for Pinnacle 441 Phase 2. Miami-based Pinnacle has the 1.67-acre trailer park, containing 50 homes, at 6028 Johnson St. under contract from Ponte Vedra-based TP Hollywood LLC.

Directly to the east of the trailer park, Pinnacle broke ground on Pinnacle 441 in early August. The $45 million project will have 110 affordable apartments, three market-rate apartments and 6,760 square feet of retail.

“We’re really excited to expand our footprint in affordable housing development with the possibility of adding 100 additional residences with the second phase of Pinnacle 441,” Pinnacle regional VP Timothy Wheat stated.

Totaling 123,593 square feet in seven stories, the project would have 100 apartments and 110 parking spaces. The units would range from 783 to 1,330 square feet.

There would be 30 one-bedroom units, 47 two-bedroom units, 22 three-bedroom units, and one ground-floor live-work unit with two bedrooms and space for a small business.

There wouldn’t be many amenities in the building, as the tenants would have access to the amenities in the first phase of the project.

Hollywood-based Kaller Architecture designed the project. Fort Lauderdale-based attorney Keith Poliakoff represents the developer in the application.

With rents spiking by double digits in Broward County over the past year, there is huge demand for affordable housing. The U.S. 441 corridor in Hollywood didn’t have much development for decades, but the city has allowed more density there and developers have taken a stronger interest in the area.

Many trailer parks in South Florida have been redeveloped into more profitable uses in recent years. This is one of the few instances in which the trailer park would be replaced by affordable housing, instead of market-rate apartments or industrial.

Article Link: Hollywood trailer park goes under contract to developer
Auther: Brian Bandell

30 years after Hurricane Andrew: How resilient is South Florida? – orlandosentinel.com

The 30th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s assault on South Florida is days away, and for the uninitiated and those who may have forgotten, here is what the Category 5 storm did to southern Miami-Dade County and elsewhere.

After striking on Aug. 24, 1992, Andrew killed 65 people, destroyed 63,000 homes, left 175,000 homeless, and in the immediate aftermath, left a million people without power. Three cities and towns in particular — Homestead, Florida City and Naranja Lakes — were completely or nearly reduced to ruins.

When 100 Air Force reservists returned home from temporary duty in Italy, their C-141 Starlifter landed at the U.S. Coast Guard station at Opa Locka Airport in northern Miami-Dade, not at their headquarters at Homestead Air Force Base, which bore the earmarks of a military attack.

“Welcome back,” Col. Russell Clem told the returnees. “Unfortunately, I have to say, welcome back to the greatest natural disaster to hit the United States.”

By many accounts, the recovery effort that followed was chaotic and nearly devoid of leadership. But once the extent of the disaster became apparent, a region that was already battered by a recession, a savings-and-loan crisis, elevated joblessness, and the bankruptcies of leading employers gradually found its way back.

If Andrew did the region any favors, it exposed flaws in local building codes, shoddy construction on a large scale, the pitfalls of relying on an economy focused on tourism and real estate, and deficits in storm preparation and recovery.

How resilient is South Florida now?

Interviews this week with businessmen, economists, forecasters and other experts show substantial improvements over the last three decades. Many agree that another storm of Andrew’s magnitude is likely to be mitigated by preventive measures taken over the years, though South Florida’s growing status as a preferred place for out-of-staters to relocate has raised uncertainties about the extent of damages another massive storm could cause.

Hurricane Andrew, one of the most powerful storms of the 20th Century, as it hit the southeast coast of Florida on Aug. 24, 1992.

New building codes

The communities of South Miami-Dade never had a chance in the face of a storm packing wind speeds of 175 mph and higher in certain areas.

Mobile home parks were reduced to shards of wood and metal. Planes, hangars and housing at the air base suffered heavy damage. Some housing developments stood fast better than others, their fates tied to building code adherence, construction quality and their proximity to the severest winds.

Broward and Palm Beach counties got their share of high winds, downed trees and structural damage, but the impact was greatest the farther south one drove.

The storm destroyed or damaged more than half of Miami-Dade’s housing units, according to a 1996 University of Florida research report. More than 353,000 people evacuated their homes, according to the university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Two Miami-Dade grand juries investigated deficiencies in both the codes and their enforcement, and strongly urged improvements. Today those improvements are a factor that many in the construction and weather forecasting businesses view as the region’s main line of defense against future big storms.

Bryan Norcross, FOX weather contributor and hurricane specialist, was working for WTVJ-Ch. 6 in Miami when Andrew struck. He was on the air for 23 consecutive hours, sitting down in his anchor chair at 9 a.m. Sunday; he didn’t leave until 8 a.m. Monday.

Norcross is credited with comforting thousands of South Floridians during the worst of the storm because they heard his voice on the radio. They heard him on the radio only because he made preparations to have a radio feed in case the TV transmission didn’t work.

“A sequence of things that happened allowed my voice to be the voice they heard in the dark of night when all hell was breaking loose,” he said.

His main Andrew takeaway: better building codes.

“The building codes used in Dade and Broward county are the best hurricane building codes in the world. It’s a direct result of Hurricane Andrew,” he said.

Miami construction law attorney George Breur of the Mark Migdal and Hayden firm says the post-Andrew codes are responsible for reduced damages across Florida during subsequent storms in the 2000s.

“Andrew was basically what gave birth to the Florida building code,” he said. “There was obviously inconsistent enforcement of the codes. Every three years it’s been updated and improved.”

In Miami. he said, 25 new condo towers are under construction and all of them will contain high-impact glass materials.

“In Miami-Dade County a residential high-rise has to have a wind grade of over 185 mph,” Breur said. “That’s not to say we’re not going to have some damage. But the key takeaway is that losses will be reduced. You’re not going to have a building blown completely away and there should be less insurance claims.”

Aerial of a Florida City mobile home park in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Miami-Dade (then just Dade) County. The old Florida City water tower took a beating and was replaced by a new tower. The city’s water plant was also refurbished. (Carl Seibert/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

But construction these days is more costly.

Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s goodwill ambassador and communications director, recalled the zoo’s aviary was destroyed, causing the loss of countless birds.

“What has changed is that the building codes became so much more stringent following the hurricane,” Magill said. “An aviary that originally cost us $3 million to build, to rebuild [it] to meet the codes properly took us 10 years at a cost of $13 million.”

Management hopes the strengthened codes will help prevent animal escapes and reduce the chances for injuries.

Peter Dyga, president and CEO at Associated Builders & Contractors, Florida East Coast chapter, warns the code improvements are no guarantee against widespread damages even though he lauds the upgrades.

“For sure I think the changes that were put in place contributed to progress through the years to the point where we have one of, if not the strongest building codes in the world.”

As a result, the level of destruction “should not should be as great” if the region was hit by another storm of Andrew’s strength.

But he warned the better code doesn’t make the region risk-free.

“We will probably be hit by the same things again,” he said. “We are taking a calculated risk by having people living in a zone that’s exposed like the southeastern portion of Florida.”

A diversified economy: a stronger defense?

South Florida’s economy is in better shape now than 30 years ago to withstand the financial impact of severe storms, economists say.

J. Antonio Villamil is the founder and principal adviser at Washington Economics Group, a consultancy in Coral Gables, and a former undersecretary of commerce In the 1990s during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

“We’re a different economy altogether,” he said. “We have much more international business and high technology startups. We don’t rely as much as we did before on cyclical construction and tourism as in the past. Given the size of the population and entrepreneurial nature of the startups, it’s quite different than during Andrew.”

amra Giffen looks through what is left of her mobile home in Kendall on Aug. 25, 1992, after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. (Jim Virga/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

Immediately after the storm, a recovery movement spearheaded by private businesses called “We Will Rebuild” helped jump-start the process and set a tone for more cooperation between the public and private sectors..

“It helps to create a better business environment when you have the public sector and business community working toward a common goal,” Villamil said. “That happened. There was a lot of leadership in the area.”

“We Will Rebuild was a major factor in driving investment in the area,” he added. “The business environment improved dramatically.”

Many businesses selling must-have items did well after the storm.

Keith Koenig, CEO of the City Furniture chain, which is based in Tamarac, said the storm wiped out his company’s location in Cutler Bay. At the time, the business was known as Waterbed City.

“We were pretty devastated by that,” he said. “The insurance company covered that. Our business really boomed because people needed to replace furniture where their homes and apartments were wiped out.”

“It was a disaster, and also an opportunity,” said Koenig, who also serves as a board member of the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s branch in Miami. “We dealt with the hurricane and our business actually boomed for about nine months. It was an artificial temporary boom and then got back to a more normal level of business.”

He, too, counts the strengthened building codes as being “at the top of the list in my mind” as being a major change for the good driven by Andrew.

The Aug. 25, 1992, front page of the Sun Sentinel, a day after Hurricane Andrew blasted across South Florida. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“Builders were really concerned this would drive up costs,” he said. “But it didn’t slow down demand. Now, any home not built to that level of that resilience is not as valuable.”

Northward ho — instant growth for Broward

The storm dramatically forced shifts in the population. driving nearly 40,000 people out of Miami-Dade permanently, according to the UF report, with many moving to the Broward County cities of Miramar and Pembroke Pines. Both are now among the region’s fastest-growing cities.

“People got their insurance money and the entire population shifted from Dade County to West Broward County almost overnight,” said attorney Keith Poliakoff, managing partner of the Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. “I always thought that was amazing.”

Previously, the West Broward area was “nothing but land and cattle,” he added.

Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, recalled that a significant amount of residential development already had been underway when the storm hit, effectively providing housing opportunities for Hispanic and Caribbean-area residents who resided in south Miami-Dade and needed to find new places to live.

“Fortunately, there was enough product coming online in Broward,” he said. “We had the first Caribbean-American majority city commission in Broward County and in the country. It changed our politics and the culture and the makeup of our county.”

Villamil said the population movement created “a truly integrated economy,” especially between Miami-Dade and Broward.

“We truly have a megalopolis between Dade and Broward, including Palm Beach County,” he said. “This is likely to accelerate with Brightline and Tri-Rail and the ability to commute between counties.”

Better preparations emerge

For FPL, there were numerous lessons learned about how to respond to such a disaster. It had no idea in 1992 how to beef up the workforce before the storm, how to house those workers, how to feed them, where to stage the work trucks, where to stage the food.

The utility has more than 100 staging sites now, said Manny Miranda, executive vice president for power delivery.

He recalled that after Andrew struck, he received an initial damage report from a co-worker.

“He said, ‘Manny, every single pole is down,’” Miranda recalled. “I said, ‘Maybe it’s where you’re standing.’ He said, ‘No, everything is devastated.’”

Miranda would soon learn that description was accurate. The utility replaced 20,000 poles for 1.4 million customers.

The utility’s storm recovery process is very different now, he said.

Boats damaged by Hurricane Andrew at Black Point Marina in Homestead on Sept. 4, 1992. (Judy Sloan Reich/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

“We already have pre-determined where material goes, where the tents go, where trucks park, how to fuel trucks. We can house people, we have mobile trailers for sleeping, mobile trailers for cooking,” he said.

The company also learned to have its workers toil alongside city cleanup crews. One thing that happened during Andrew was that municipal crews bulldozed entire areas to get them cleared, destroying electrical equipment in the process.

Miranda said about 45% of FPL’s electrical lines are underground.

“One of the things we know is our main transmission lines, our main circuit lines, what we call main feeder lines, they hold up pretty well during a hurricane,” Miranda said. “The issue for us during Hurricane Irma was overhead lines in people’s backyards.”

Miranda said access and restoration is complicated by trees, swimming pools and sheds. The utility is looking to put all neighborhood lines underground and harden them all to withstand 145 mph winds.

Zoo Miami in South Miami-Dade learned it needs a post-storm plan, including having generators for air conditioning animal housing.

“I think the zoo is much-better prepared in dealing with the aftermath than we were initially,” Magill said. “The sense of having a pre-determined evacuation for animals post-storm, having generators now built and located throughout the park, having our stations properly managed and maintained so we can deal with excess water. I think that experience is going to be invaluable should another storm of that magnitude come through.”

Swindell believes the state now has a better storm preparedness culture.

“People were moving to Florida and a lot of new folks had never been in a hurricane before,” he said. “You’d have a hurricane party at a local bar and go out and buy stuff you would never buy.”

“That mindset really got shaken up. I think people take it much more seriously. We’re building much better.”

Three generations of one family lost their mobile homes at the Dadeland Mobile Home Park in Kendall when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. Tamra Giffen comforts daughter Catlin, 3, while grandmother Dorothy Giffen rests on what was left of a neighbor’s home on Aug. 25, 1992. (Jim Virga/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

The next ‘Big One’

Economists still warn that another storm of Andrew’s magnitude could well create much more damage than in 1992 mainly because of the sheer rise in the region’s population, which is now 6.1 million, up from the 4.1 million people who lived here three decades ago.

The increased density caused by a development boom has created higher real estate values that could easily be deflated by another natural disaster, they warn.

“Where we might be underestimating is the actual cost,” said Sofia Johan, an economist at Florida Atlantic University. “The population has doubled in the last 20 years and the population’s wealth has possibly doubled, if not quadrupled.”

“Whatever damage happens is going to be even more expensive,” Johan added, noting that insurance companies are dropping customers and raising rates.

Florida’s insurance market has spent most of the last two years on life support, battered by financial woes, the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently reported. Heavy losses caused widespread fears — just before the official start of hurricane season on June 1 — that a large number of companies would not be able to meet the state’s minimum financial-strength requirements to protect all of the state’s property owners.

“I get dropped by my insurance companies on a regular basis for whatever reason,” Johan said. “I am thinking about all of those people who cannot afford the 60% to 70% increases in insurance. What would happen to them?”

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy reminds people that sea level rise is a major concern.

“If a storm hits at King Tide we could be worse off as a region,” he said. “We’re certainly taking steps to raise the seawalls and public shorelines to reduce the likelihood of flooding in a perfect-storm situation. Conditions led by sea level rise make the challenge all the more harder. The bar is set higher by nature itself.”

Staff writer David Lyons can be reached at dvlyons@SunSentinel.com. Staff writer Chris Perkins can be reached at chperkins@sunsentinel.com.

Article Posted on: 30 years after Hurricane Andrew: How resilient is South Florida?

Author: David Lyons and Chris Perkins

30 years after Hurricane Andrew: How resilient is South Florida? – sun-sentinel.com

The 30th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s assault on South Florida is days away, and for the uninitiated and those who may have forgotten, here is what the Category 5 storm did to southern Miami-Dade County and elsewhere.

After striking on Aug. 24, 1992, Andrew killed 65 people, destroyed 63,000 homes, left 175,000 homeless, and in the immediate aftermath, left a million people without power. Three cities and towns in particular — Homestead, Florida City and Naranja Lakes — were completely or nearly reduced to ruins.

When 100 Air Force reservists returned home from temporary duty in Italy, their C-141 Starlifter landed at the U.S. Coast Guard station at Opa Locka Airport in northern Miami-Dade, not at their headquarters at Homestead Air Force Base, which bore the earmarks of a military attack.

“Welcome back,” Col. Russell Clem told the returnees. “Unfortunately, I have to say, welcome back to the greatest natural disaster to hit the United States.”

By many accounts, the recovery effort that followed was chaotic and nearly devoid of leadership. But once the extent of the disaster became apparent, a region that was already battered by a recession, a savings-and-loan crisis, elevated joblessness, and the bankruptcies of leading employers gradually found its way back.

If Andrew did the region any favors, it exposed flaws in local building codes, shoddy construction on a large scale, the pitfalls of relying on an economy focused on tourism and real estate, and deficits in storm preparation and recovery.

How resilient is South Florida now?

Interviews this week with businessmen, economists, forecasters and other experts show substantial improvements over the last three decades. Many agree that another storm of Andrew’s magnitude is likely to be mitigated by preventive measures taken over the years, though South Florida’s growing status as a preferred place for out-of-staters to relocate has raised uncertainties about the extent of damages another massive storm could cause.

Hurricane Andrew, one of the most powerful storms of the 20th Century, as it hit the southeast coast of Florida on Aug. 24, 1992.

New building codes

The communities of South Miami-Dade never had a chance in the face of a storm packing wind speeds of 175 mph and higher in certain areas.

Mobile home parks were reduced to shards of wood and metal. Planes, hangars and housing at the air base suffered heavy damage. Some housing developments stood fast better than others, their fates tied to building code adherence, construction quality and their proximity to the severest winds.

Broward and Palm Beach counties got their share of high winds, downed trees and structural damage, but the impact was greatest the farther south one drove.

The storm destroyed or damaged more than half of Miami-Dade’s housing units, according to a 1996 University of Florida research report. More than 353,000 people evacuated their homes, according to the university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Two Miami-Dade grand juries investigated deficiencies in both the codes and their enforcement, and strongly urged improvements. Today those improvements are a factor that many in the construction and weather forecasting businesses view as the region’s main line of defense against future big storms.

Bryan Norcross, FOX weather contributor and hurricane specialist, was working for WTVJ-Ch. 6 in Miami when Andrew struck. He was on the air for 23 consecutive hours, sitting down in his anchor chair at 9 a.m. Sunday; he didn’t leave until 8 a.m. Monday.

Norcross is credited with comforting thousands of South Floridians during the worst of the storm because they heard his voice on the radio. They heard him on the radio only because he made preparations to have a radio feed in case the TV transmission didn’t work.

“A sequence of things that happened allowed my voice to be the voice they heard in the dark of night when all hell was breaking loose,” he said.

His main Andrew takeaway: better building codes.

“The building codes used in Dade and Broward county are the best hurricane building codes in the world. It’s a direct result of Hurricane Andrew,” he said.

Miami construction law attorney George Breur of the Mark Migdal and Hayden firm says the post-Andrew codes are responsible for reduced damages across Florida during subsequent storms in the 2000s.

“Andrew was basically what gave birth to the Florida building code,” he said. “There was obviously inconsistent enforcement of the codes. Every three years it’s been updated and improved.”

In Miami. he said, 25 new condo towers are under construction and all of them will contain high-impact glass materials.

“In Miami-Dade County a residential high-rise has to have a wind grade of over 185 mph,” Breur said. “That’s not to say we’re not going to have some damage. But the key takeaway is that losses will be reduced. You’re not going to have a building blown completely away and there should be less insurance claims.”

Aerial of a Florida City mobile home park in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew devastated south Miami-Dade (then just Dade) County. The old Florida City water tower took a beating and was replaced by a new tower. The city’s water plant was also refurbished. (Carl Seibert/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

But construction these days is more costly.

Ron Magill, Zoo Miami’s goodwill ambassador and communications director, recalled the zoo’s aviary was destroyed, causing the loss of countless birds.

“What has changed is that the building codes became so much more stringent following the hurricane,” Magill said. “An aviary that originally cost us $3 million to build, to rebuild [it] to meet the codes properly took us 10 years at a cost of $13 million.”

Management hopes the strengthened codes will help prevent animal escapes and reduce the chances for injuries.

Peter Dyga, president and CEO at Associated Builders & Contractors, Florida East Coast chapter, warns the code improvements are no guarantee against widespread damages even though he lauds the upgrades.

“For sure I think the changes that were put in place contributed to progress through the years to the point where we have one of, if not the strongest building codes in the world.”

As a result, the level of destruction “should not should be as great” if the region was hit by another storm of Andrew’s strength.

But he warned the better code doesn’t make the region risk-free.

“We will probably be hit by the same things again,” he said. “We are taking a calculated risk by having people living in a zone that’s exposed like the southeastern portion of Florida.”

A diversified economy: a stronger defense?

South Florida’s economy is in better shape now than 30 years ago to withstand the financial impact of severe storms, economists say.

J. Antonio Villamil is the founder and principal adviser at Washington Economics Group, a consultancy in Coral Gables, and a former undersecretary of commerce In the 1990s during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

“We’re a different economy altogether,” he said. “We have much more international business and high technology startups. We don’t rely as much as we did before on cyclical construction and tourism as in the past. Given the size of the population and entrepreneurial nature of the startups, it’s quite different than during Andrew.”

amra Giffen looks through what is left of her mobile home in Kendall on Aug. 25, 1992, after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. (Jim Virga/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

Immediately after the storm, a recovery movement spearheaded by private businesses called “We Will Rebuild” helped jump-start the process and set a tone for more cooperation between the public and private sectors..

“It helps to create a better business environment when you have the public sector and business community working toward a common goal,” Villamil said. “That happened. There was a lot of leadership in the area.”

“We Will Rebuild was a major factor in driving investment in the area,” he added. “The business environment improved dramatically.”

Many businesses selling must-have items did well after the storm.

Keith Koenig, CEO of the City Furniture chain, which is based in Tamarac, said the storm wiped out his company’s location in Cutler Bay. At the time, the business was known as Waterbed City.

“We were pretty devastated by that,” he said. “The insurance company covered that. Our business really boomed because people needed to replace furniture where their homes and apartments were wiped out.”

“It was a disaster, and also an opportunity,” said Koenig, who also serves as a board member of the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s branch in Miami. “We dealt with the hurricane and our business actually boomed for about nine months. It was an artificial temporary boom and then got back to a more normal level of business.”

He, too, counts the strengthened building codes as being “at the top of the list in my mind” as being a major change for the good driven by Andrew.

The Aug. 25, 1992, front page of the Sun Sentinel, a day after Hurricane Andrew blasted across South Florida. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

“Builders were really concerned this would drive up costs,” he said. “But it didn’t slow down demand. Now, any home not built to that level of that resilience is not as valuable.”

Northward ho — instant growth for Broward

The storm dramatically forced shifts in the population. driving nearly 40,000 people out of Miami-Dade permanently, according to the UF report, with many moving to the Broward County cities of Miramar and Pembroke Pines. Both are now among the region’s fastest-growing cities.

“People got their insurance money and the entire population shifted from Dade County to West Broward County almost overnight,” said attorney Keith Poliakoff, managing partner of the Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale. “I always thought that was amazing.”

Previously, the West Broward area was “nothing but land and cattle,” he added.

Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, recalled that a significant amount of residential development already had been underway when the storm hit, effectively providing housing opportunities for Hispanic and Caribbean-area residents who resided in south Miami-Dade and needed to find new places to live.

“Fortunately, there was enough product coming online in Broward,” he said. “We had the first Caribbean-American majority city commission in Broward County and in the country. It changed our politics and the culture and the makeup of our county.”

Villamil said the population movement created “a truly integrated economy,” especially between Miami-Dade and Broward.

“We truly have a megalopolis between Dade and Broward, including Palm Beach County,” he said. “This is likely to accelerate with Brightline and Tri-Rail and the ability to commute between counties.”

Better preparations emerge

For FPL, there were numerous lessons learned about how to respond to such a disaster. It had no idea in 1992 how to beef up the workforce before the storm, how to house those workers, how to feed them, where to stage the work trucks, where to stage the food.

The utility has more than 100 staging sites now, said Manny Miranda, executive vice president for power delivery.

He recalled that after Andrew struck, he received an initial damage report from a co-worker.

“He said, ‘Manny, every single pole is down,’” Miranda recalled. “I said, ‘Maybe it’s where you’re standing.’ He said, ‘No, everything is devastated.’”

Miranda would soon learn that description was accurate. The utility replaced 20,000 poles for 1.4 million customers.

The utility’s storm recovery process is very different now, he said.

Boats damaged by Hurricane Andrew at Black Point Marina in Homestead on Sept. 4, 1992. (Judy Sloan Reich/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

“We already have pre-determined where material goes, where the tents go, where trucks park, how to fuel trucks. We can house people, we have mobile trailers for sleeping, mobile trailers for cooking,” he said.

The company also learned to have its workers toil alongside city cleanup crews. One thing that happened during Andrew was that municipal crews bulldozed entire areas to get them cleared, destroying electrical equipment in the process.

Miranda said about 45% of FPL’s electrical lines are underground.

“One of the things we know is our main transmission lines, our main circuit lines, what we call main feeder lines, they hold up pretty well during a hurricane,” Miranda said. “The issue for us during Hurricane Irma was overhead lines in people’s backyards.”

Miranda said access and restoration is complicated by trees, swimming pools and sheds. The utility is looking to put all neighborhood lines underground and harden them all to withstand 145 mph winds.

Zoo Miami in South Miami-Dade learned it needs a post-storm plan, including having generators for air conditioning animal housing.

“I think the zoo is much-better prepared in dealing with the aftermath than we were initially,” Magill said. “The sense of having a pre-determined evacuation for animals post-storm, having generators now built and located throughout the park, having our stations properly managed and maintained so we can deal with excess water. I think that experience is going to be invaluable should another storm of that magnitude come through.”

Swindell believes the state now has a better storm preparedness culture.

“People were moving to Florida and a lot of new folks had never been in a hurricane before,” he said. “You’d have a hurricane party at a local bar and go out and buy stuff you would never buy.”

“That mindset really got shaken up. I think people take it much more seriously. We’re building much better.”

Three generations of one family lost their mobile homes at the Dadeland Mobile Home Park in Kendall when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. Tamra Giffen comforts daughter Catlin, 3, while grandmother Dorothy Giffen rests on what was left of a neighbor’s home on Aug. 25, 1992. (Jim Virga/South Florida Sun Sentinel file)

The next ‘Big One’

Economists still warn that another storm of Andrew’s magnitude could well create much more damage than in 1992 mainly because of the sheer rise in the region’s population, which is now 6.1 million, up from the 4.1 million people who lived here three decades ago.

The increased density caused by a development boom has created higher real estate values that could easily be deflated by another natural disaster, they warn.

“Where we might be underestimating is the actual cost,” said Sofia Johan, an economist at Florida Atlantic University. “The population has doubled in the last 20 years and the population’s wealth has possibly doubled, if not quadrupled.”

“Whatever damage happens is going to be even more expensive,” Johan added, noting that insurance companies are dropping customers and raising rates.

Florida’s insurance market has spent most of the last two years on life support, battered by financial woes, the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently reported. Heavy losses caused widespread fears — just before the official start of hurricane season on June 1 — that a large number of companies would not be able to meet the state’s minimum financial-strength requirements to protect all of the state’s property owners.

“I get dropped by my insurance companies on a regular basis for whatever reason,” Johan said. “I am thinking about all of those people who cannot afford the 60% to 70% increases in insurance. What would happen to them?”

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy reminds people that sea level rise is a major concern.

“If a storm hits at King Tide we could be worse off as a region,” he said. “We’re certainly taking steps to raise the seawalls and public shorelines to reduce the likelihood of flooding in a perfect-storm situation. Conditions led by sea level rise make the challenge all the more harder. The bar is set higher by nature itself.”

Staff writer David Lyons can be reached at dvlyons@SunSentinel.com. Staff writer Chris Perkins can be reached at chperkins@sunsentinel.com.

Article Posted on: 30 years after Hurricane Andrew: How resilient is South Florida?

Author: David Lyons and Chris Perkins

Twin towers, each rising 35 stories, will be the tallest in Hollywood’s downtown

HOLLYWOOD — When glitzy twin apartment towers take up residence on the east side of Young Circle, they’ll have bragging rights as the tallest downtown.

The luxury towers, currently dubbed B57 North and B57 South, will rise into the sky nearly 400 feet high, transforming the east side of Young Circle from dormant to dazzling, developers say.

The towers — an ambitious $555 million project calling for 856 apartments — will dress up a blighted corner currently home to a Walgreens and long-shuttered Publix. The project’s high-end restaurants, shops and office space are also expected to draw a crowd, bringing more people to a downtown that has struggled in years past.

A pedestrian skybridge will connect the two towers on the second level, making it possible for cars on Hollywood Boulevard to travel underneath the skywalk, providing direct access to Young Circle for the first time in decades.

Hollywood commissioners gave unanimous approval to the plan by developer BTI Partners in early July. Another vote granting final approval is expected on Aug. 31.

“I want to thank BTI for making this investment,” Vice Mayor Caryl Shuham said. “It’s exciting to see. When all of this happens, we are going to have a ton of people walking around downtown. And that’s the goal. Walking, shopping. Live, love, work, play.”

Two 35-story towers would rise on the east side of Young Circle in downtown Hollywood as part of a project planned by BTI Partners of Fort Lauderdale. The $555 million project calls for 856 luxury apartments in addition to shops, restaurants and office space. (BTI Partners/Courtesy)

Construction to start next year

The south tower will go up first, with a groundbreaking expected in June 2023 and construction expected to take two years, said Keith Poliakoff, attorney for the developer.

The north tower would break ground in mid-2024 and open by mid-2026.

Both towers will have 35 stories, standing 390 feet high.

The south tower will feature 455 apartments, with 72,600 square feet reserved for restaurants, bars and shops.

The north tower will have 401 apartments, with 70,000 square feet of retail space and 40,000 square feet of office space.

The apartments can be converted to condos in the future based on market demand, Poliakoff told commissioners.

Each building will have its own parking garage on levels one through nine, with a project total of 1,636 parking spaces.

For 20 years now, Hollywood officials have been exploring the possibility of recreating that 3.5 acre corner to allow for better traffic flow from the beach to Young Circle.

BTI Partners is making it happen, after getting the required buy-in from state transportation officials.

“This redevelopment, together with the vision of bringing Hollywood Boulevard through the property to Young Circle, took years of work to bring forward,” Mayor Josh Levy said. “Partners like the Florida Department of Transportation, Broward County Transit, the former property owner, and of course, the new owner/developer, BTI Partners, all share in an understanding of how exciting an opportunity this is to further the beautiful living space that downtown Hollywood is becoming, with the ArtsPark as its heart.”

The BTI Partners project would change the way traffic flows around Young Circle. Under the plan, the towers would straddle a new section of road that would open up the east side of the circle, giving drivers a more direct route to the beach. (BTI Partners/Courtesy)

New towers, new downtown

It all started when Poliakoff met Noah Breakstone, CEO of BTI Partners, and suggested he turn his sights on downtown Hollywood.

When the project came up for commission approval on July 6, there was something noticeable missing from the room: Critics.

Poliakoff told commissioners the reason they “don’t have 1,000 people here today” ready to blast the project was because the developer held several meetings over the past two years, vetting his plans with the community.

BTI Partners is also redeveloping another parcel on Young Circle once home to the Bread Building, an 11-story landmark built in 1969.

BTI has already demolished the building and expects to break ground soon on a 25-story tower with 362 luxury apartments and ground-floor shops and cafes. In a nod to history, the vintage Bread Building sign will be saved and used on the new building.

Hollywood’s founder, Joseph W. Young, would have approved of what’s happening downtown, Poliakoff said.

“He envisioned downtown as being a vibrant place for people to walk around, live and work and never leave Hollywood,” he said. “He wanted people to congregate downtown.”

Not everyone likes the tall towers coming to downtown Hollywood. “These tall buildings are going to dramatically change the character of the area, and not in a good way,” resident Jay Schorr told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. (BTI Partners / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Longtime Hollywood resident Jay Schorr disagrees.

Schorr, who emailed the South Florida Sun Sentinel last year criticizing the project, says it will bring more traffic and potentially crime to downtown. He also says the towers are too tall.

“These tall buildings are going to dramatically change the character of the area, and not in a good way,” he said Thursday. “I think it’s out of character for what Joe Young wanted the city to be. He didn’t want these high-rise monoliths. I don’t think Joe Young would be happy with this at all.”

In his email to the newspaper, Schorr made a dire prediction: “Just like the great hurricane of 1926 that destroyed most of our city, the great development hurricane of 2021 will wreak havoc on our quality of life for decades to come.”

Ken Crawford, another longtime resident and president of the Parkside Civic Association, has a different take.

“Our downtown is growing,” he said. “The more density we have downtown the better off we are, because we’re more of an urban city now. We’re no longer living in 1926. We’re living in 2022. And we have to grow to move into the future.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan

Link: Twin towers, each rising 35 stories, will be the tallest in Hollywood’s downtown
Auther: Susannah Bryan

‘All part of the game’: Commercial landlords seek ways out of long-term leases as more lucrative tenants arrive

Property owners that don’t want to renew leases as rents increase will find unique ways to get out of contracts.

Landlords are finding ways to oust long-term tenants and replace them with new businesses willing to pay premium asking rents, two attorneys told the Business Journal.

Jordan Isrow, a partner in the Fort Lauderdale-based Government Law Group, said he has helped at least three landlords get out of renewing their leases with their long-term tenants so they could obtain new, more lucrative lease deals with companies relocating from New York and other parts of the country.

“With businesses moving to southeast Florida, commercial real estate has increased in value. That, in turn, makes it harder for tenants to stay in their lease or renew,” Isrow said. “[Landlords] are trying to capitalize on an opportunity that is presenting itself.”

The trend has come back mostly in South Florida’s retail sector, where average asking rents have risen 13.5% in Broward, 15% in Miami-Dade, and 16% in Palm Beach County from last year, according to recent figures from Colliers.

The rise in retail rents and fall in vacancies are largely driven by out-of-state restaurant operators who want their businesses in a region that has attracted high-income households, brokers and developers have told the Business Journal. At the same time, out-of-state companies are opening branch offices and, in some cases, even moving their headquarters to South Florida.

New arrivals include chains and franchises who have the infrastructure to pay higher rents and make capital improvements to retail properties, said Dominic “Nico” Romano, a real estate attorney affiliated with Coral Gables-based Spiritus Law Firm.

“Now you have real estate that is much more valuable and [landlords] taking advantage of the increases in prices,” said Romano, who also owns retail property in North Lauderdale.

Dave Preston, executive managing director of retail services at Colliers’ Miami office, said landlords are typically eager to oust tenants locked in at lower rates when market rents are rising.

“It’s just the natural dynamic of landlord-tenant relations,” he said.

Isrow said his clients have been able to get out of lease renewals by exploiting contract clauses, including their ability to make renovations or upgrades.

For example, when one landlord announced he was going to reconstruct the parking area, the tenant opted not to renew the lease. The landlord opted not to pursue that renovation project after signing a lease with the out-of-state tenant, he said.

Another method is to be a stickler with contract terms when a tenant gives notice that he or she wants to renew their lease. In one case, a landlord declared his tenant in default after the renter failed to include a return address.

Finally, landlords often use their right to inspect their properties to eject tenants. So if a tenant is doing an activity not explicitly allowed in the lease, the landlord can hold that business in default.

For instance, a flex industrial building landlord was able to oust a grocery store using that method because it had a butcher shop on the premises, something not explicitly allowed by the lease, Isrow said. A financial firm replaced the grocery tenant.

“This is all part of the game right now,” Isrow said.

Mom-and-pop businesses usually don’t have the time or money to go through litigation to contest the situation, so they’ll usually take a settlement, Isrow said. Landlords are also willing to pay current tenants to move so they can bring in newer clients, he added.

Romano said tenants can negotiate a lucrative payment from a landlord who wants them out.

“Maybe [the tenant] has a huge asset like a liquor license,” he said.

Romano said mom-and-pop businesses in high-demand locations will be forced to close or move elsewhere.

Romano also said he sees no reason why retail rents will drop anytime soon.

“We have been fortunate in South Florida to have been in an inviting climate, both from a meteorological standpoint and a business standpoint,” Romano said. “As long as those things keep going, rents are going to keep increasing.”

Link: ‘All part of the game’: Commercial landlords seek ways out of long-term leases as more lucrative tenants arrive
Auther: Erik Bojnansky

Landlords Are Slashing Ties With Tenants to Capitalize on a Hot CRE Market. Here’s How They’re Doing It

“I think there’s going to be sympathy for businesses but at the same time, the law is really designed in a way to capitalistic benefit,” said Jordan Isrow of Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale.

As commercial rental rates rise in South Florida, some landlords who are locked into leases are hoping to capitalize on the market by getting out of their contracts as businesses relocate and look for space.

That’s according to attorney Jordan Isrow of Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale, who said he’s seeing landlords find creative ways to get out of their contracts.

“It’s mostly financially driven, but there may be other reasons as well, which is they may be looking to reshape the overall look and feel of a commercial space,” said Isrow. “They may be wanting to be changing direction and having a tenant they think may not otherwise be a good fit and having another tenant come in that’s competitive to that tenant.”

Landlords might also look for ways to invalidate a tenant’s options to renew, in order to get higher rental rates.

It’s all about looking closely at contracts, Isrow says, as no two leases are created equal. He recommended doing “a deep dive” into the lease and also looking at the tenant’s history.

“For example, I had a client who was looking to get out of a five-year extension that the tenant was otherwise entitled to under the lease,” said Isrow. “We found one provision in there that said that at the time the tenant issues its notice for renewal, it must be in good standing. The tenant missed a payment by just a few days, but that was during the window in which they sent their option to renew. This becomes a game of cat and mouse. We didn’t alert them to this kind of failure and instead waited for the notice window to pass. We informed them they were not in good standing at the time and therefore we were able to remove the tenant.”

There are a lot of prohibitive use clauses in a commercial lease that can prevent a tenant from using the property in a way that the landlord deems a nuisance to other tenants or brings down the value of the property.

Isrow said another strategy is to use the right to entry by a landlord provision to look around the tenant’s space.

“It’s an innocuous way to go in and say ‘We’re just looking around at the common elements.’ If they’re able now, once they’re inside the property, they can start looking around. Is there anything this tenant has failed to maintain that they’re responsible for? Is there any use that may not be in accordance with the lease?”

Finding a ‘Win-Win’

Ultimately, some landlords are not able to get out of their lease and end up in court, but that’s not the goal. Isrow says some parties are willing to pay their tenants to leave and may even help them relocate.
“They do this because of a cost-benefit analysis. They know that if they break the lease, they’re going to get sued, and they’re going to have to pay time and money for litigation. And if they can shortcut that and save some of the money and put it toward the tenant in a way that helps them get out of the situation they’re in and find another one, then it’s a win-win.”

Isrow doesn’t think the courts want to hurt landlords or tenants, they just starting to recognize the reality of the market.

“Some landlords are going to be able to pull it off, and others may not. It’s a very fact-specific situation,” said Isrow.

For attorneys representing landlords, Isrow says to be very specific as to what the goals are from the landlord, particularly if it’s a financially motivated decision. And before any decisions are made, review the lease.

“In some instances, depending on the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, there may be a viable solution as easy as having a conversation,” said Isrow. “You’d be amazed that sometimes if a landlord goes to a tenant and says, ‘Here’s my issue,’ sometimes that does the trick. Not always, but I think some lawyers are too quick to jump to the litigation front instead of actually finding an amicable solution.”

If a tenant still sues, Isrow believes the courts are sympathetic to the tenants: “I think there’s going to be sympathy for businesses but at the same time, the law is really designed in a way to capitalistic benefit.”

Link: Landlords Are Slashing Ties With Tenants to Capitalize on a Hot CRE Market. Here’s How They’re Doing It
Auther: Melea VanOstrand

Law Lags Behind Tech As 3D Construction Forges Ahead

Law360 (June 28, 2022, 1:27 PM EDT) — When the married co-owners of Precision Building & Renovating LLC decided to build Florida’s first 3D-printed home just outside Tallahassee city limits in 2019, the pair found themselves embroiled in a painful process that they eventually walked away from altogether.

Leon County slow-walked James and Kyndra Light’s permit application, repeatedly coming back to the Lights with requests for additional paperwork. The nine-month slog was “dead in the water” by the time the pandemic hit, James Light told Law360.

Mighty Buildings production manager Yonah Naftaly shows a machine that fills 3D-printed wall panels with
insulating foam, last year in Oakland, California. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

While a handful of 3D-printed homes cropped up across the country in 2021, constructed by Alquist 3D, ICON and SQ4D, the project floated by the couple would have been the first permitted 3D-printed home in the nation, James Light said.

“I went back and forth with them month after month trying to satisfy anything and everything,” Light said. “Trying to convince them that this is a legitimate process and something … we need to figure out how to inspect and figure out how the [building] code applies.”

Precision sold the Leon County property soon after the pandemic took hold and the couple turned their attention toward Tallahassee instead, which was “way more receptive” to the project.

“It was an easy slam dunk for them to approve,” said Light, adding that the pressure in the housing market and a shortage of skilled labor increased incentives for the Florida city in the meantime.

But even with the support of a municipality eager to be on the cutting edge, Light said, the company had to translate the house to a building code that made no mention of 3D printing.

In the end, the company “overbuilt” the structure, leaning on existing code for cinder blocks that translated best to the type made by the kind of printer the company had leased. According to Light, Precision filled the concrete-printed structure with additional concrete support, effectively treating the 3Dprinted structure like a facade.

The walls were completed in nine days and the entire structure, cheaper than stick-built alternatives by 10% to 20%, is set to be completed by the end of July, Light added.

While the nascent 3D-printing technology finds its footing as a cheaper and faster approach amid a housing market weighed down by labor shortages, supply chain congestion and the rising price of materials, attorneys told Law360 that such run-ups against existing code drafted without the technology in mind were to be expected until municipalities take steps to keep pace with the technology.

Hurtado Zimmerman SC shareholder Bryan Kroes noted that the rapidly changing nature of 3D-printing technology had contributed to the lag between the law and 3D projects already underway. Any existing code relating to 3D construction would already have been rendered obsolete, Kroes added, because of the swift pace at which the technology has evolved.

In situations such as the Lights’ Tallahassee project, construction companies will often rework existing code into a structure workable for the novel construction techniques, according to Kroes.

“Anytime that we’re trying to build something that is outside of those traditional construction methods, you’re going to find building inspectors and individual municipalities trying to figure out a way that the municipal building code that exists at that time can then be used for that particular structure,” Kroes said.

“And sometimes that means approaching from a unique perspective or essentially trying to shoehorn certain elements of the building into the various code areas that may be applicable to it,” he added. Though the Lights’ project is one of a handful underway or completed nationwide, developers have turned their focus to larger residential projects in recent months, including construction firm Alquist 3D’s April announcement that it plans to begin work on 200 3D-printed houses in Williamsburg, Virginia, this summer.

But with widespread and larger-scale use on the horizon, tension between existing building standards and the breakneck pace at which the technology is evolving must be resolved to take advantage of the benefits touted by proponents of the technology, according to Keith Poliakoff, a founding partner at Government Law Group PLLC.

“Code throughout the United States constantly has to evolve based on changing technology,” Poliakoff said. “All of us in the industry who see what’s going on with labor shortages and supply chain issues and the cost of construction — which post-pandemic has escalated … 30% to 40% — realize that developers are already scrounging the marketplace to look for other viable options.”

This reconciliation process will require the industry to confront questions of how utilities and assembly of component parts differ from traditional home construction methods, according to attorneys and experts. “Where I think many states are still going to have concerns is that it isn’t necessarily a licensed plumber who’s going to pull a piece of plumbing pipe through a wall or run electrical wire through a conduit,” said Kim Hurtado, founding partner of Hurtado Zimmerman. “Regular laborers will do a lot of bulk assembly that would ordinarily be handled by licensed professional trades; mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection.”

Louis Archambault, partner in Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s real estate practice, echoed Hurtado, noting that the sheer dearth of real-world trial and error leaves developers and lawmakers with unanswered questions.

“You still have to run electric lines to all of these different homes, you have to run water and sewer service to each of these different homes,” Archambault said. “Is that a process that can be done similarly to what you would do now with a regular 300 single-family home project?”

Poliakoff added that a “massive” education push for building inspectors would also need to be undertaken to ensure that future projects conformed to applicable standards, whatever they may be.

“The building material is so novel that it’s doubtful that many building inspectors in this state or across the country have seen it in action,” Poliakoff said. “It’s impossible for someone who has never seen it before to be able to confirm that it meets the structural integrity and material type [and] viscosity.”

Mighty Buildings, a California-based construction technology company, announced plans in March 2021 to construct a 15-home community in Rancho Mirage, California, after constructing three individual houses elsewhere throughout the state.

Mark Aldrich, general counsel at Mighty Buildings, told Law360 that municipalities were naturally cautious when approaching new technology in construction.

“Local jurisdictions are conservative, they’re there to protect their citizens and so they’re much slower to adopt newer technologies because they are responsible for protecting the people who live in their city,” Aldrich said. “It’s totally understandable.”

Unlike Precision’s approach in Tallahassee to building the 3D structure on-site, Mighty Buildings produces 3D-printed modular panels at a factory and later assembles the prefabricated components on-site.

According to Aldrich, the company chose to focus its operations in California because of a state law that allowed companies to seek preapproval for factory-built housing and building components. Under the state’s process, companies can submit plans for standardized designs installed in controlled conditions to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for preapproval, shrinking the typical permitting timeline from nine months to as little as two weeks.

Florida also has a similar provision in its building construction standards law allowing inspectors to approve prefabricated components.

Light told Law360 that Precision had originally considered whether the company might be able to obtain a permit for the 3D-printed home under this provision. But because Precision eventually decided to construct the home on-site using a gantry 3D printer, the provision wasn’t applicable, he added.

Under the statute for manufactured housing components, a state inspector watches as an entire unit and all subsystems including electrical and plumbing are assembled. If the manufacturing process meets applicable Florida building code requirements, subsequent modules need only be inspected once.

Hurtado said the approach could give 3D construction companies the “substantive equivalent of regular code compliance.”

“[The inspector] watches you assemble an entire unit, whatever that unit consists of, whether it’s a wall panel, an entire apartment that’s going to be slipped into a framework, a steel framework on multi-units, a high rise,” Hurtado explained.

Jurisdictions will also need to work with companies pioneering 3D construction technology to ensure the safety of the printing materials used, touted by proponents as capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions better than traditional materials, attorneys added.

According to the companies, Precision used a concrete mixture for the Tallahassee home while Mighty Buildings uses a resin made of 60% post-consumer product.

Global safety certification company UL developed a methodology for evaluating 3D-printed building elements and structures, known as UL 3401. Mighty Buildings became the first company certified under the standard, Aldrich said.

UL 3401 later became the basis for a 3D-printed construction appendix to a 2021 International Residential Code developed by the International Code Council, an international organization that develops global building standards.

Michael Schwartz, a construction attorney at Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC, told Law360 that the International Residential Code appendix could feasibly function as a unified building code for 3D construction so long as municipalities adopt it in reference to previous building codes.

“While [the appendix], which incorporates UL 3401, is not a complete and comprehensive list of all applicable codes and standards which are pertinent to a 3D-printed construction process, local building codes can ensure that all applicable requirements are met by incorporating previously adopted building codes,” Schwartz said.

Jurisdictions, however, must formally opt to adopt the updates contained in the 2021 code, leading to a piecemeal approach with many municipalities still abiding by the 2018 version. Only three Texas cities — Roman Forest, League City and Austin — have adopted the 2021 code and 3D appendix, according to a representative for the code council.

But while municipalities may be applying a characteristically cautious approach to the new construction technology, Kroes said shifting public opinion is likely to incentivize change as such projects proliferate across the country and become a viable method in the public eye.

“If it’s just a one-off thing, it may be very hard for a municipality to see the reason to adopt it,” Kroes said. “But if it starts to become more widespread, and also a viable alternative … well then, that may be the catalyst to get certain municipalities to act.”

–Editing by Karin Roberts.

Article Link: Law Lags Behind Tech As 3D Construction Forges Ahead
Author: Grace Dixon

On the Rise: Jordan Isrow

Get to know some of the most accomplished and promising attorneys in Florida, aged 40 or younger.

Title, Firm: Partner at Government Law Group

Jordan Isrow of Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale.

What drew you to a career in law? As a kid I was the unfortunate victim of an accident that required serious surgery and extensive rehabilitation. That was the first time I had ever dealt with an attorney, who was there for me and my family in our time of need and left a lasting impression on me regarding the immeasurable value of understanding the law and using it as a tool to help others.

Have you set a specific goal that you want to achieve in the next year? Winning my reelection campaign for Parkland City Commissioner – District 2.

What has been your proudest career moment and your biggest hurdle? My proudest career moment to date was being asked to build and manage the first ever legal department for an industry-leading international cosmetics company and reducing annual legal spend by over 50%. My biggest hurdle has been overcoming the misperception that I am “too young” to be an effective attorney and a strong leader.

Where do you fit on a 1-10 work-life balance scale with 10 being nirvana? 8. Achieving the perfect work-life balance is a never-ending challenge that only gets easier with time, experience and introspection. The key for me has been learning to set my priorities, including my family’s health and happiness, and then tailoring how I work around my life as opposed to the other way around.

What is the top quality that you’ve used to succeed in the profession? My insatiable thirst for learning.

Who is your favorite mentor and why? My father-in-law, the late great Michael Moskowitz, who sadly recently lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. He was the smartest, funniest and most selfless person I’ve ever known. He taught me invaluable life lessons about being an outstanding lawyer, a savvy businessman and an upstanding member of the community, while still being true to himself and without ever sacrificing his integrity.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? The life we live is simply a byproduct of the decisions we make every single day — so choose wisely.

What professional lessons have you learned from the coronavirus pandemic? The ways in which we communicate may evolve over time, but the importance of strong communication will never change. The one constant about the law is that it is always changing. What you knew yesterday may no longer be relevant or helpful tomorrow, so it is vital to always keep learning.

What trends are you observing in the profession that you’re excited about? The increased focus on work-life balance that will hopefully serve to greatly reduce the mental health issues that have troubled the profession for decades.

What is the greatest challenge you see for the legal profession? Moving away from the billable hour toward alternative fee arrangements that reward attorneys for being more efficient in how they help clients achieve their goals through the use of creative thinking and new technologies.

If I weren’t a lawyer, I’d be … A three-star Michelin Chef.

Link: On the Rise: Jordan Isrow
Auther: Raychel Lean

‘From the Ashes of Calamity’: Lawyers React to Swift $997 Million Resolution of Surfside Condo Collapse Litigatio

“Next time you hear someone disparage our profession, it is worth remembering some of the exceptional work done here.”

The June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside killed 98 people and left dozens injured. Credit: Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock.com.

Less than a year after the June 24, 2021, collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium building killed 98 people in Surfside, a proposed $997 million class action settlement has been reached—to the amazement of many in the legal community.

It’s a result that’s unprecedented in both size and speed, according to Daniel Gielchinsky, founding partner of business law firm DGIM Law, who served as Surfside’s vice mayor from 2018 to 2020.

“From the ashes of this awful calamity arose a principled and fierce determination to ensure that the legal system quickly brought justice to those who needed it most,” said Gielchinsky.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the settlement agreement during a hearing Wednesday. It’s still pending approval from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who has frequently expressed a desire to resolve the case quickly.

Hanzman previously approved an $83 million settlement covering economic losses such as condominium units and personal property. The final compensation tally could breach $1 billion, as the collapse site will be sold via live auction May 24.

‘Why You Become a Lawyer’

Attorney Brad Sohn of Sohn Law in Miami.

The litigation surrounding the collapse has been a “true whirlwind,” according to Brad Sohn of The Brad Sohn Law Firm in Coral Gables, who was the first attorney to file suit over the tragedy.

“It’s been emotionally exhausting and, at the same time, the amount of pride that I have and the ability to be able to deliver for the victims that had the world’s empathy and sympathies,” said Sohn. “To have this happen in our own backyard is terrible, and the flip side is to able to step up and at least put some of these pieces back together so that they can focus on what’s really important. That’s why you become a lawyer in the first place.”

For Sohn, his biggest challenge was the unrelenting pace of the litigation.

The Key Players

Hanzman has been widely commended for resolving the case so quickly.

The judge called the litigation “heart wrenching” at a March class action litigation forum at the University of Miami, remarking, ”I find it very rare that you have a class action that has both significant economic and significant injury components.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Hanzman reportedly told the courtroom, “I’m shocked by this result. I think it’s fantastic,” the judge told the courtroom. “This is a recovery that is far in excess of what I had anticipated.”

Among the last defendants to settle were developers Terra Group and 8701 Collins Development, and John Moriarty & Associates, general contractor of the neighboring building Eighty Seven Park condo, accused of destabilizing Champlain Towers during construction work. Paul J. Schwiep of Coffey Burlington represented Terra and Christopher L. Barnett of Greenberg Traurig represented 8701 Collins Development, according to online case files.

Miami attorneys Rachel Furst and Stuart Grossman of Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen and Harley Tropin of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton served as lead counsel to the plaintiffs in the class action.

Akerman partner Michael I. Goldberg served as receiver, represented by Paul Singerman and Jordi Guso of Berger Singerman, while Miami attorney Bruce W. Greer mediated the case.

Mark Raymond, managing partner and complex commercial litigator at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Miami, said the plaintiffs team should be commended for what he described as “nothing short of an incredible settlement.”

“To get these defendants and their insurers to settle, knowing full well that there are many meritorious defenses to the claims, speaks volumes about their skills as negotiators and as outstanding lawyers,” said Raymond. “The nearly $1 billion settlement is a Herculean achievement. Judge Michael Hanzman summed it up perfectly: ‘Simply amazing. Outstanding.’  While it will never replace the loss of family members it is, nevertheless, a sensational outcome for the families.”

Likewise, Gielchinsky said he’s astonished that the case is near resolution having been pending for less than a year. He noted many case participants never anticipated a settlement could get anywhere close to $1 billion—especially when the property sold for $120 million last year.

“Cases of this magnitude typically take between three to five years or more to reach this point, and appeals often add several more years to the legal process,” Gielchinsky said. “This remarkably swift pace is a testament to the resolve that Judge Michael Hanzman and receiver Michael I. Goldberg showed in pushing the lawyers and parties to quickly bring a significant measure of closure and compensation to the families of those who were tragically lost.”

Mark Migdal & Hayden partner Etan Mark of Miami. Courtesy photo

Although the settlement is a success, Etan Mark, founding partner of Mark Migdal & Hayden in Miami, said there will never be closure for the victims or their families.

“But there can be a sense of justice within the confines of our judicial system. It is remarkable what has been accomplished here and it is a testament to Judge Hanzman and all of the attorneys involved,” said Mark. “So, next time you hear someone disparage our profession, it is worth remembering some of the exceptional work done here.”

Precedent for HOA Liability?

The settlement should be a wake-up call for HOAs regarding their exposure to liability risks, according to Jeanne Grove, partner and co-chair of the real estate practice group at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck in California.

“The HOA, along with several other defendants, including the engineers involved in the development, had reportedly already settled with the plaintiffs earlier for approximately $100+ million,” said Grove. “While the HOA’s reported contribution to settlement represents a mere fraction of the total billion-dollar settlement amount, it is significant enough to confirm the HOA’s concern for its substantial liability in the case.”

Although the developers, engineers and other defendants involved in the construction of the building may be deemed ultimately responsible, the HOA’s role in settlement signals how it also played a part in the tragedy, in Grove’s view.

“The HOA faced the prospect of significant liability in the case for failing to identify the defects in the building and for failing to promptly address them,” said Grove.

Grove suspects the settlement could serve as a precedent for HOA liability in future construction defect cases across the country.

“Although HOA boards are usually comprised of volunteers with no requirement of prior experience in any practice area, this case may compel future board members to take on special knowledge in construction, property management and real estate law,” said Grove. “HOAs across the nation would be wise to check in with their counsel and their insurance carrier to ensure they are code compliant and following best practices, particularly with respect to the management of older buildings.”

Keith Poliakoff of Government Law Group. Courtesy Photo

Attorney Keith Poliakoff with Government Law Group in Fort Lauderdale represents real estate developers in the permitting process in South Florida and is a city attorney for Southwest Ranches. He said the litigation will ultimately affect Florida building code processes.

“This unfortunate event has substantially increased the pressure on both companies who perform 40-year recertifications and the municipalities who review them. The failure to flag a substantial life-safety violation in a report and the municipality’s failure to force immediate compliance can lead to cataclysmic results,” said Poliakoff.

Nothing can ever prepare an attorney for a case and tragedy like what happened in Surfside, but Sohn said staying determined and working as a team helped get the job done.

“What made this so different is that everybody experienced … whether you lost your home or lost a loved one, [everybody] lost something unspeakable all at the identical moment in time as well,” said Sohn. “I just think that this is really unique even in the world in which I practice. Always try to make sure you’re the right attorney for your client, that you would want for yourself.”

As the proposed settlement still needs final approval from Hanzman, Sohn said the hope is that victims can start to be compensated by the fall of this year.

Raychel Lean contributed to this report. 

Link: ‘From the Ashes of Calamity’: Lawyers React to Swift $997 Million Resolution of Surfside Condo Collapse Litigation

Author: Melea VanOstrand More from This Author