DAYTONA BEACH — A little over one week after Protogroup's oceanfront condominium construction site was slapped with a condemnation and demolition order, the company has snapped into action and started clearing out rusting and deteriorating building materials.

Weathered construction material such as plywood and pre-built rebar cages is being thrown into trash or recycling dumpsters, and the rust stains dripping down the tall concrete foundation columns are getting a coat of protective grayish-white paint to keep the rust from leaching through.

"They're definitely adhering to what we asked," city Chief Building Official Glen Urquhart said Friday morning just after he left the condo site at the eastern tip of Oakridge Boulevard. "A whole bunch of debris has been cleaned up. It looks a lot more presentable."

Urquhart said he'll give Protogroup 90 days now to finish clearing away the piles of construction material that have been laying around for months, painting the columns and sandblasting the rust off of the rebar that's been sticking out of the columns while work has been idled for more than two years.

Once the corroded material is removed from the rust-coated rebar, structural engineers will determine if the rebar meets diameter requirements, Urquhart said.

"They'll address the ones in the worst shape first," he said.

Rebar that's snaked down into the columns will also be examined, he said. While most encased rebar should be OK, rust can "leach back in like a wick," Urquhart said.

Protogroup is about to start cleaning up the rusted rebar atop the pilings in the foundation of its condominium project on Daytona Beach's oceanfront that's planned to reach 31 stories. Last week, the city issued a condemnation and demolition order on the site, but now the city is giving the company a chance to get back on track.

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While Protogroup is diligently adhering to the city's orders, and even going the extra mile with the protective paint on the columns that the city didn't request, the condemnation and demolition order imposed Sept. 1 will remain in place at least until it's determined that the rebar is strong enough to use, Urquhart said.

Urquhart wrote in his three-page condemnation order that portions of the unfinished structure are dangerous and "likely to partially or completely collapse, or to become detached or dislodged" due to faulty construction, neglect, abandonment, exposure to the elements, damage and decay.
Protogroup project aiming to get back on track

On Sept. 1 the city mandated that Palm Coast-based Protogroup, which is operating under the name PDA Trading Inc. on the condo project, secure or repair the rusting concrete structure "to a safe condition" within three days, or demolish it and clear the site by Sept. 21.

If the company defies the orders coming from City Hall, the city can still level part or all of what's been built so far, impose penalties and attach a lien on the property for all demolition and debris removal costs.

The bright orange condemnation placards that were posted on the condo's foundation Sept. 1 have been removed since Alexey Lysich, the registered agent for the property owner, told Urquhart he's committed to getting the $100 million project back on track.

Lysich could not be reached for comment Friday.

If Protogroup clears away all debris and is able to get the foundation strong enough for the 31 floors intended to be built on top of it, then the city will consider allowing another 180 days of work. If all goes well after the 180 days, it could return to being an active project again that's inspected every few weeks.

"As long as we see them be proactive," Urquhart said. "It's been stagnant for several years. They know we'll be right back on them if they slip. Hopefully this puts them in the right direction."

The condo tower was originally slated for completion in 2020. The city has agreed to several extensions, and the latest construction completion deadline is in March of 2024.

"Hopefully they'll get moving forward and complete the project in a few years," Urquhart said. "I'm happy to see some action."

While the concrete foundation columns have been standing for about three years, not much else has been happening on the site of what was promised to be the tallest structure ever built in Volusia County.

In April the city declared Protogroup's building permit expired because so little work had taken place over the previous two years. If the company allows the condo project to languish again, the permit will expire again and all work will shut down.

Last week, the cleanup work brought some activity back to the site. In an email sent to Urquhart Wednesday, Graham Currie of Protogroup said his team had met the previous day with Josh Antos of Truant Concrete and requested that he put together a crew to "clean up the jobsite urgently. He is currently pulling together personnel to do this work."

Currie went on to write that he was talking with TLC Engineering and had requested the firm's recommendations for physical testing of the existing reinforcement on the jobsite. He said independent testing will be carried out by Universal Engineering.

In another email to Urquhart sent Thursday, Currie laid out the timeline for tasks to get the site back on track. He said TLC Engineering will conduct an initial evaluation this week, and then reinforcement testing will be conducted later this week and next week.

The engineering firm's findings and its report are scheduled to be reviewed the week of Sept. 26, according to Currie's email.
The Protogroup condo hotel backstory

The unfinished condo tower is part of a $192 million twin-tower hotel-condominium project on a 4.6-acre site that's been in the works for nearly a decade.

Excavation work began in March 2017, with an initial projected completion date of summer 2019 for the 28-story hotel south tower. The 455-room Daytona Grande hotel had its construction deadlines extended several times, and it finally opened in June last year.

Last week's condemnation order doesn’t affect the Daytona Grande, although city officials said that property might be in danger of foreclosure.

Work on the north tower's foundation began in December 2018, and it now has piles driven 100 feet down into the sandy oceanfront property.

The project has switched contractors several times and run into a series of snags. Among the missteps was construction of a westward valet lane for the parking garage built on the one-way eastbound Oakridge Boulevard, and insufficient restoration of the intersection in front of the new hotel last year after new water and sewer lines were installed underneath that crossing.

There have also been legal fights with past contractors and a small decades-old motel that sits in the middle of the two tower sites.
'I could be dead by the time they build it'

A 65-year-old Tennessee woman has been nervously watching the latest developments with the condo project. In late 2020, the retiree put down a $26,000 deposit on a $260,000 studio unit in the planned tower, and now she's worrying she'll lose her money and never get her beachfront getaway.

She's also worried that she bought into a condo building that could collapse like the 12-story Champlain Towers South condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside that crumbled last year and killed 98 people. She also fears the Protogroup hotel building next door could fall into the condo site.

She feels like she's losing her grasp on her dream of having a beautiful place to stay while she visits her children in Daytona Beach.

"I could be dead by the time they build it," she said.

The woman, who fears retaliation from Protogroup, wanted to be identified only by her first name, Nancy.

Her money is in an escrow account, so if the project dies she hopes she at least gets her deposit back. So, most likely, do the other 80 buyers who have also put down 10% of the sale price.

"I thought it would be a good investment," she said. "I figured after the Miami collapse they'd crack down. I'm very disappointed. Now I feel like it's the worst possible thing I could have gotten involved in."