Proposed land exchange for Florida condominium collapse

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A proposed land swap to allow an on-site memorial to the victims of the deadly Florida oceanfront condominium collapse will be considered for financial viability, a judge ordered Wednesday.

Many survivors and family members of the South Champlain Towers collapse oppose a memorial in a nearby Miami Beach park. And many are uncomfortable with replacing this doomed building with a luxury structure on what they see as sacred ground.

“We think it’s kind of a burial place,” said Carlos Wainberg, who lost several of his family in the June 24 disaster in Surfside, Fla., And is supportive of the idea of land exchange.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the 12-story building to collapse, killing 98 people.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, who is overseeing the collapse lawsuits, has asked a court-appointed receiver to investigate the proposed exchange.

“This is something that is going to be considered,” Judge Hanzman said at a pre-trial hearing. “There will never be enough to fully compensate everyone. “

The proposal would work this way: a new Surfside Community Center containing a Champlain Memorial would be built on the site of the collapse. In return, the land on which the 10-year-old community center now stands would be sold to compensate survivors and family members of the victims.

A proposal to purchase the existing Champlain site for approximately $ 120 million is still under negotiation and further bids are expected. A complicating factor is the potential for the Town of Surfside to enact a zoning change that could reduce the value of the property.

“The good thing is to add as much value to the property as possible,” said Oren Cytrynbaum, a former Champlain resident and lawyer who unofficially represents many victims. “Lives have been lost. Lives have been displaced or ruined.

Surfside officials said a September 9 workshop was scheduled on the zoning issue, but no city council vote was set. The zoning issue relates to the density – in other words, the potential condominium units – that would be allowed in a new building.

Hanzman has previously expressed dismay that Surfside continues to seek a zoning change affecting the value of the Champlain site.

“There is no deal until it is approved by this court,” the judge said.

Another hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday.


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