CityPlace S. Tower rushes to fix roof tiles at WPB condo
Palm Beach Post
By Alexandra Clough
14 September 2016

“In this day and age of greed, it’s ‘Let’s build it fast and get it up and running and sell it fast.’… But if you build too fast and don’t pay attention, things happen.”
Rick Gonzalez

CityPlace South Tower’s roof tiles are loose and falling off, only eight years after the luxury West Palm Beach condominium was built.

Residents of the 420-unit condo are scrambling to replace the tiles before they fall and hit someone or something around the Okeechobee Boulevard tower near a major retail and entertainment complex — or become dangerous projectiles in a wind storm.

The cost of the roof redo? A whopping $3.2 million.

The CityPlace South Tower Condominium Association last month sued CityPlace South Tower LLC (an affiliate of developer Related Group of Miami), general contractor Moss & Associates, roofer P&A Roofing & Sheet Metal Inc., plus six other contractors and professional firms. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

The Palm Beach County Circuit Court lawsuit said the defendants failed to properly install and inspect the roof tiles at CityPlace South Tower. The condo is at 550 Okeechobee Blvd., across the street from theCityPlace dining and shopping center.

CityPlace South Tower in West Palm Beach Wednesday, September 14, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

The problem was discovered by the condo association in March, but months of talks with the developer and contractors have not led to a resolution.

Now, due to safety issues, condo association officials said they are racing to start fixing the roof within the next few weeks. But the association also filed the August lawsuit in hopes it can recoup the roof repair costs. The lawsuit could take months or years to resolve.

This isn’t Related’s first residential tower in West Palm Beach to prompt questions about construction quality.

Betsy L. McCoy, general counsel and vice president of Miami-based Related Group, said in a statement Wednesday that the company was “investigating the facts and the claims made.”

McCoy added: “In the interim, we have notified the general contractor and we have asked that they take appropriate action. We fully expect our general contractors and their subcontractors to stand behind their product.”

Fort Lauderdale-based Moss Construction declined to comment, a spokeswoman said. Officials with P&A Roofing of Orlando did not return a phone call seeking comment.

“Catastrophic failure” risk
An engineering firm hired by the condo association determined that CityPlace South Tower’s roof is “not secured, ” according to the firm’s report.

The firm found some tiles had no screw fasteners attaching them to the roof, while others had only one screw, even though building codes require two screws. In other parts of the roof, the report said hurricane clips were installed with only one screw, and not two, as required.

Ominously, tiles along the eaves were installed at inconsistent intervals, which “will greatly increase the potential for catastrophic failure as a direct physical result of wind uplift,” according to the report by forensics roofing firm Roof Leak Detection Company of Lake worth.

The clay tiles are so loose they are visibly sliding off, said Steve Perelman, condo association board president.

Some tiles have even fallen to the ground around the building, said Michele Poetsche, regional director for First Service Residential, the building’s management company. “That’s the reason we’re doing this with a sense of urgency,” Poetsche said.

Warning signs that say “Danger/ Falling Material/ Keep Out” are posted along a fence surrounding the 20-story building.

Scaffolding and a wood-covered walkway to the building’s entrance also have been installed to protect people until the roof can be fixed, said Tim Allen, secretary/treasure of the condo association.

Pool time? Not for long
Condo association officials have been talking to the defendants since the March discovery of the problem, when workers preparing for a painting job went to the roof, Perelman said.

There, workers noticed a number of missing tiles, Perelman said. Other tiles were sliding in a “wave type” effect, he said.

The tiles in question line the building’s edges in an architectural roof element called a mansard. They also adorn the building’s appurtenances, which are tower-like features atop the mansard.

The condo’s flat roof is not affected, and the roof is not leaking, Perelman said.

Perelman said there’s no way the problem can be resolved by fixing a few tiles here and there. All the tiles have to be removed and replaced, he said.

Until then, condo residents are hoping the area won’t be hit by a storm that could fling the tiles through the air and cause damage to people and nearby property.

The situation is especially dangerous since the condominium is 20 stories tall, which means the tiles could be hurled long distances, said Stephen Walker, a West Palm Beach construction litigator not affiliated with the lawsuit. “With loose roof tiles on a structure and a hurricane, there’d be huge problems,” Walker said.

The condo’s owners had to pay a special assessment for the roof job. The assessment, which is based on the size of an owner’s unit, ranges from $4,000 to $8,500, Perelman said.

Understandably, many residents aren’t pleased about having to pay thousands of dollars to repair a key element of a building that’s less than a decade old.

“But most people understand this needs to be done, and they want it done as quickly as possible,” Perelman said.

The job, set to start in the next few weeks, will take up to 120 days to complete. This means the pool will be closed for a while, even though seasonal residents soon will be returning to the building.

Condo has rocky history
CityPlace South Tower was completed in 2008. But as its completion neared, condo unit sales slowed due to the recession. Some buyers backed out of their contracts, too.

In 2009, Related handed over control of the property to a consortium of partners led by Toronto-based Scotia Capital. Scotia Capital had filed for foreclosure based on a $134.7 million mortgage it granted in 2006.

In November, Gulfstream Capital Partners of Dallas picked up 309 of the tower’s remaining unsold units in a bulk purchase worth $63.9 million.

At first, Gulfstream started selling units for between $160,000 and $600,000. Today, condos start at $300,000 for a one bedroom unit, according to the condo’s website. Larger penthouse units can sell for more than $800,000, real estate agents said.

Miami-based Related Group is a sister company of New York-based The Related Cos., which built CityPlace.

In addition to CityPlace South Tower, Related Group also built The Slade, Villa Lofts, The Tower Condominiums at CityPlace, The Prado, and The Courtyards in CityPlace.

Rick Gonzalez, a West Palm Beach architect, was dismayed to learn of CityPlace South Tower’s roof tile problems.

During the real estate boom 10 years ago, many projects were rushed to completion in order to catch the buying frenzy, said Gonzalez, of REG Architects.

Speaking generally, Gonzalez said: “In this day and age of greed, it’s ‘Let’s build it fast and get it up and running and sell it fast.’… But if you build too fast and don’t pay attention, things happen.”

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