Would I stay or would I go?

The horrific collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium building in Florida consisting of 136 units has resulted in 16 people being killed and another 149 still missing. While it will take some time to determine the cause of the collapse, suspicions are focused on problems with the foundations or that the salty air caused the steel used in the framework to corrode. A letter written by the president of the condominium association three months before the collapse said that the building needed $15 million in major maintenance and repairs.

There is another identical building just one block away that was built by the same company at the same time forty years ago and now those residents have to make the decision as to whether to stay or leave. This is not an easy decision and would depend on many factors. These units are expensive but their value would have dropped now and some people may not be able to sell and find another place. It would also depend on whether they lived alone (in which case they would only be risking their own demise) or whether they lived with loved ones which might tilt the decision towards moving. It would also depend upon age. Older people find it harder to move and may also feel that they have less to lose by staying.

It appears that there has not been a mass exodus as yet from the other building.

About a block from the Miami-area beachfront condominium tower that collapsed sits its sister building, erected a year later by the same company, using the same materials and a similar design. It has faced the same tides and salty air.

This has made some residents of Champlain Towers North worried enough to leave, though many have remained, saying they are confident their almost 40-year-old, 12-story building is better maintained. They say their building doesn’t have the same problems with cracking in support beams and in the pool area that 2018 engineering reports show the south tower had.

North tower residents who want to temporarily relocate are being offered private assistance from Support Surfside, a charity group helping victims of the collapse. The group did a survey of the building’s full-time residents and found about half are staying and half have left. Overall, about half the units are owned by snowbirds like Weinstock and those residents left before the collapse, the group’s survey showed. Overall, 28 of the 113 units are currently occupied, the group found.

These types of residences in Florida are the home to so-called ‘snowbirds’, affluent older retired people who maintain two residences, living in the northern part of the country during the summer months and moving south to escape the winter. Hence the occupancy is lower at this time of year.

This is one of those situations that tests how comfortable you are with risk. It is an intensely personal evaluation that makes it difficult for one person to advise another. I have been thinking about what I might do if I were in that situation but finally came to the conclusion that this is one of those extreme hypothetical situation where one cannot really predict one’s actions unless one is actually faced with that situation.


  1. rs says

    I think the answer is clear. If one could afford to go, they will go. Those who don’t have means probably will be brave for some time. The building will be empty within a year or so. Even if the chance of the second building falling is minimum, the psychological impact will be too much to bear.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sort of like living in certain parts of California which could be devastated by a major earthquake.

  3. Matt G says

    Rob@2- I just saw another article about the Cascadia subduction zone, which is looong overdue for a rupture. And as more time passes, more energy gets stored. When (not if) it does go, the resulting tsunami will affect tens of millions in the US and Canada.

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