By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – A plan to potentially sell the South Florida property where a condominium collapse killed 98 people to a United Arab Emirates-based developer was approved Thursday by a judge from Florida.
According to the plan, the nearly 2-acre (0.8 hectare) beachfront property would be purchased for $ 120 million in cash by East Oceanside Development. At the same time, a lawyer appointed to manage the interests of Champlain Towers South will continue to market the Surfside property, and an auction will take place if competitive bidders come forward willing to pay a higher price.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman said in a hearing that he would approve the plan, provided his court maintains jurisdiction over any legal actions arising from the proposed sale. He said he didn’t want the property to be “tied to litigation” if the contract collapsed.
The proposed sale contract makes no mention of a memorial that many family members of the survivors claim on the property.
The collapse of the 12-story condominium last June is under review by federal investigators, but homeowners association documents show the building has undergone numerous unanswered repairs for years.
An appraiser valued all units in the building at more than $ 95 million, according to Michael Goldberg, the lawyer who looks after the interests of Champlain Towers South. Almost $ 50 million will come from insurance coverage.
The appraisal of the condos came from a “fair market assessment” of what they would have sold the day before the collapse and used comparisons to other similar properties, Goldberg said.
The judge told condominium owners that they would be able to review the valuation of their units and that he would listen to their concerns, but he still expected many of them to feel that their units were. dumped.
“It’s a science, not an art,” Hanzman said. “It will be one of those incidents where the perfect must be sacrificed for the greater good.”
Moreover, said the judge, if the amount of damage to the building had been known publicly before the collapse, “the units probably could not be sold.”
The judge also asked lawyers in the case to research how any excess between the appraised value of $ 95 million and a sale valued at $ 120 million or more should be allocated. Without making a decision yet, Hanzman said he was inclined to give the extra money to the relatives of the 98 people who died in the building collapse.
He urged family members of the deceased and surviving owners not to fight over how the profits are distributed.
“We have 98 people who perished in this. If the choice I have is to give more to the unit owners, or take the excess and give it to the relatives of the deceased family members, I will go with the latter, ”Hanzman said. “These decisions are difficult. It’s going to be sad, in my opinion, if we see unit owners clashing over this issue. “
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