Champlain Towers South Site in Surfside Heads Toward Sale

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The site of the fallen Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla., is heading towards termination and a probable sale, after the latest hearing in the ongoing lawsuits surrounding its collapse. 

Before the vacant parcel can be turned into a new building or a memorial, the condominium must be terminated, said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman during a court hearing on Wednesday. 

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“Whatever avenue is going to be taken here, that is a prerequisite,” the judge, referring to a condo termination, told the courtroom through video conferencing.

A termination allows an entire condo building to be sold if more than 80 percent of unit owners agree to it, and is a popular practice among developers, who typically tear down the existing structure and build a new one.

With governments unlikely to become viable bidders for the Champlain Towers South site, that leaves developers as the most probable buyers. Hanzman had previously determined that a sale to developers was the best course of action.

A sale of the site, through a termination, would provide another compensation source for victims and their surviving families, in addition to any potential legal settlements and insurance payments.

While the price of the parcel has yet to be determined, the land could go for as much as $110 million, the Miami Herald reported last week. Governments don’t have that kind of money, Judge Hanzman insinuated.

“I don’t want anybody to get the impression that any government entity is going to come in and pay fair market value for this property,” he said. “I’ve always been very skeptical that that will occur.” 

Without governments, prospective buyers are likely to be developers, who see an opportunity to construct a new building where Champlain Towers South used to sit. Its oceanfront location makes it highly valuable, especially in the midst of Miami’s current condo market, which continues to soar despite the tragedy.

The number of completed condo transactions jumped by 159.4 percent, when comparing the two weeks following Champlain Towers South’s collapse and the same period a year prior, according to data from the Miami Association of Realtors

But, the potential sale comes while the cause of the collapse remains unclear. And Champlain Towers South and its surrounding sites could still pose a danger to residents. One plausible theory is that the soil underneath caved in. 

“We need to find out why that building fell down and it needs to be done a lot sooner than later, because lives are at stake,” said Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com.