BOCA RATON — Boca Raton has identified the first string of decades-old beachside buildings that will face newly required inspections after last year’s deadly Surfside condo collapse raised statewide concerns about older structures.

The city so far pinpointed 191 properties that meet the requirements for inspection citywide. But it is starting off inspections gradually, first checking the properties of potentially greatest concern, gauged by buildings’ age, size and proximity to the ocean.

There are 14 properties — situated within Zone 1, the city’s barrier island, east of the Intracoastal Waterway — that are old enough to need reports to be submitted before Feb. 1. The city has sent certified letters notifying those building owners, according to Ileana Olmsted, a city spokeswoman.

Those buildings are Atrium Association, built in 1970; Boca Inlet Condominium (1965); Cloister Beach Towers (1966); Cloister Del Mar, (1969); Lulu’s Abode (1968); Newth Gardens (1969); Newth Gardens South (1970); Ocean Reef Towers Condominium (1970).

They also include Royal Colonial Apartments (1965); Sabal Point Condominium (1965); Sabal Ridge Condominiums (1968); Sabal Shores Apartments (1970); TGM Oceana (1967); and Three Thousand South Associates (1970).

Emily Gentile, president of the Beach Condo Association Board of Boca Raton and Highland Beach, said residents have started readying.

“What I’m hearing now is that people are just hunkering down and doing what they need to do toward making the dates and making completion” of inspections, Gentile said. “Nose to the grindstone and hand in the wallet. Nobody wants another Champlain Towers.”

Miami-Dade and Broward counties require building inspections at 40 years, while other Florida counties have no requirement. Most recently, Miami-Dade is moving toward shortening the 40-year requirement to 30 years. Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, collapsed June 24 as its 40-year recertification was due. Ninety-eight people died.

The city of Boca Raton has identified 191 properties, some of which include multiple buildings, that need inspections for structural safety, according to Brandon Schaad, director of development services for the city. The city has been divided into four zones to prioritize buildings by age and proximity to the ocean. The soonest deadline for inspection is Feb. 1, 2023.

Records show the building had significant structural damage in its underground parking garage. An engineer had already concluded that $15 million of repairs would be required to bring it up to code. Some of the damage at the oceanside building is believed to have come from saltwater in the air.

In August, two months after the Surfside collapse, Boca Raton passed a new law requiring inspections for most condo buildings over 30 years old in city limits.

It was among the first cities in Florida to pass such a measure while Palm Beach County deferred to the state Legislature to take action, but no such law was enacted statewide.

Palm Beach County remains in a wait-and-see mode regarding enhanced building inspections. In October, the County Commission held off on taking any new measures until after the State Legislature met in January in hopes they would institute new statewide regulations.

“The best thing would be for the state to take the lead on this,” Commissioner Gregg Weiss said in October, while noting if the state didn’t take action the county was “going to have to do something to make sure things are being done properly.”

While the Legislature did not take any action at the time, the state is reconvening for a special legislative session next week.

As a result, Palm Beach County will wait until after the session before taking any action on enhanced building inspections and will likely revisit the topic later this summer, Assistant County Administrator Patrick Rutter said.
Looking ahead

Last week, Boca Raton city officials approved the fees for building owners. Affected property owners will need to pay a $500 fee to have their buildings inspected and submit a required report to the city’s building department.

The buildings have been prioritized largely from east to west because experts say buildings closest to the ocean are at highest risk of the impact of saltwater on concrete, steel and other building materials.

Within each zone the city established, older buildings are given the earliest deadlines. In addition to Zone 1, Zone 2 covers the Intracoastal Waterway, west to Dixie Highway; Zone 3 spans Dixie Highway to west of I-95; and Zone 4 goes west of I-95.

The city expects inspections for all the buildings they’ve identified to take about four years.

The latest deadlines for inspections — essentially, the oldest ones farthest from the beach — aren’t until Nov. 1, 2026.

As part of the city’s program, it has already hired a building recertification inspector and must still hire an administrative assistant, according to Olmsted. The city has also started seeking an engineering team to contract with.

The city has previously estimated the cost of the program at around $250,000 per year, plus salaries of the inspector and assistant. Those costs will be funded, at least in part, by the $500 fees from property owners.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel attempted to reach owners and management for the initial 14 properties, but none responded to requests for comment.