Virginia Ponce hasn’t been able to return to her fourth-floor condo in Flagami since leaving her home of 21 years in August under a city-ordered evacuation, after inspectors determined the eight-story tower was unsafe due to damaged columns. Ponce, 77, moved in with her daughter in southwest Miami-Dade. Months later, she’s hoping an overhaul of the condo association’s leadership and a fundraising campaign might help bring residents closer to moving back into their homes.
Cristian, the grandson of an elderly resident, carries personal items as all residents from a 138-unit condo at 5050 NW Seventh St. in Flagami were forced to evacuate Aug. 9, 2021, after city officials deemed the building unsafe. Cristian, the grandson of an elderly resident, carries personal items as all residents from a 138-unit condo at 5050 NW Seventh St. Flagami were forced to evacuate Aug. 9, 2021, after city officials deemed the building unsafe.
The condo tower was
one of many buildings inspected in the weeks following the
collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, a disaster
that killed 98 people and sparked a rush of building
inspections across Miami-Dade County. When city officials
told the Flagami’s building management that multiple columns
on the first floor needed to be shored up, contractors began
unpermitted work that city officials say made matters worse.
Officials ordered the building’s evacuation immediately, and since then, people have been allowed to retrieve belongings only by appointment, with city building officials monitoring and only allowing a few people in at a time. Residents say conditions have worsened inside, with leaks, broken elevators and mold.
Among the displaced was Gus Fagundo, who evacuated that night with his pregnant wife and toddler. The situation pushed the family to make a move they’d been considering out to Coral Springs, where they are now living in a home they bought. Anywhere closer was far out of their budget.
Fagundo said he hopes the new board can help resolve the building’s issues, and he’s grateful his household can withstand the financial strain. “We’re still paying the mortgage and the association fees, along with a brand new mortgage here,” he said on Thursday. “It’s not drowning us, but we certainly can’t take our Disney trip this year.“