Constructing collapse reveals town’s wealthy center class


The collapse of the Surfside condominium tower could exacerbate the existing gap between the small Florida town’s new luxury buildings built for the global elite and those built decades ago for the middle class. It is already a headache for some small businesses.

Numerous new condominiums have been built in the city in recent years, where large oceanfront units of more than 280 square feet with modern amenities can fetch $ 10 million and more. Small units of 75 square feet are now available for $ 400,000 in neighboring condominiums built decades ago.

Ana Bozovic, a South Florida real estate agent, said the collapse of the 40-year-old middle-class Champlain Towers South on June 24 will exacerbate that divide. At least 46 people were killed and more than 90 are still missing.

Bozovic said many buyers are now avoiding older buildings, not only because they fear they could collapse as well, but also because of the repair costs that Champlain South’s owners had before the collapse: $ 80,000 to $ 300,000 per unit. These factors will decrease the value of older condominiums while the prices of luxury buildings will continue to skyrocket.

“The capital owners who move here never thought of older buildings. They are buying newer structures and stems so I don’t see this dampen their appetite, ”said Bozovic, founder of Analytics Miami. “This will further depress the sale of older structures and further divide the market.”

Before the Champlain Towers South tragedy, Surfside was one of South Florida’s most anonymous communities, with about 6,000 residents on a 1.3-square-mile island off Miami – even though Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner rented a luxury condo in a new building two blocks from the collapse in January away.

Beachgoers walk past the beach entrance of the Arte by Antonio Citterio Condominium, Center, June 29, in Surfside, Florida. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump rent an apartment from Arte while their house is under construction in nearby Indian Creek Village. (AP photo / Marta Lavandier)

Known for its clean beaches and 12-story buildings, the city is in contrast to neighboring Miami Beach and its world-famous nightlife, Bal Harbor with its high-end shopping and both buildings that are double and triple the height of Surfside’s tallest .

Mayor Charles Burkett said the city has seen a “roller coaster” of emotion since the collapse. The demolition of the remaining part of the structure and Tropical Storm Elsa, which brought strong winds and heavy rains to the area, have intensified the community’s situation.

“We’ve faced tons of challenges, but the little good news is that the resources we have are all aligned, all focused, and all pulling in the same direction,” he said.

Ryan Mermer moved to Surfside from Palm Beach County earlier this year, drawn to the tranquility, proximity of the city to Miami’s thriving business climate and large Orthodox Jewish community. On Saturdays, much of the city is closed on the Sabbath, with the exception of chain stores. Surfside was the home of Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Yiddish poet and short story writer who received the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature.

But Mermer also got a deal for a small apartment built half a century ago, just steps from the luxury apartment that the daughter and son-in-law of former President Donald Trump have moved into. While Mermer’s building was built for the middle class, construction today caters to the New York, European, and South American elite, drawn by the lifestyle, the weather, and the lack of an income tax.

“I’m paying $ 1,375 (a month) … across the street from the beach; Ivanka and Jared pay $ 38,000, ”said Mermer, a real estate agent who also works for Holocaust Heroes Worldwide, a support group for survivors of Nazi death camps.

In Surfside’s modest shopping district, the hairdresser Aramis Armor and Freddy Elias, co-owners of a tailor’s and cleaning workshop, had no customers one afternoon. The pandemic hit their businesses hard, both said, and the collapse and resulting road closures made it difficult for anyone to reach.

Freddy Elias, owner of Geneva Tailor, stands in front of his shop on June 29th. The nearby building collapse and road closures have restricted pedestrian traffic to its business. (AP photo / Marta Lavandier)

Cupid says the business district is full of families during normal times – they can grab an ice cream, grab a pizza, or have a coffee at the many local shops downtown.

“They are all very nice, the customers are very good,” said Armor. He blamed city officials for his lack of shops and said they should never have let the collapsed building rot like this.

Elias, who has owned Surfside for 25 years, hopes a low-interest federal loan that President Joe Biden’s administration has promised to collapsed businesses will get him through until his customers return. Meanwhile, a partner was being driven to a customer’s home for a try, rather than tricking the customer into fighting the traffic to get to the store.

“Since COVID and now this tragedy, it’s been very, very bad for us,” said Elias. “We need help.”

The streets have been open again since this week.


Frisaro reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associate Press Writer Mike Schneider in Orlando and Gisela Salomon in Miami; Photographer Marta Lavandier in Surfside; and the researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.