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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Saturday, Apr. 30, 2022 3 weeks ago

Merchants face losing stores during 18-month condo tower repair project

The 101 Condominium tower repair project in downtown Sarasota is putting multiple tenants — retailers and residents — in a bind.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

The former Dolphin Tower in Sarasota is about to undergo major structural repairs that will close parts of the building at separate intervals for an estimated 18 months, causing some distress for residents and uprooting retail tenants.

The work, on a building shuttered and evacuated 12 years ago over fears of collapse, is designed to address structural issues in the building’s garage that the property manager and association president believe should have been done several years ago. The fixes are part of a broader project that will update the outside of the building, which opened in 1975 and is now called The 101 Condominium, and transform the waterfront tower from its familiar pink frontage to white. Building officials estimate the project will cost about $2 million.

Jim Toale, the association’s president, says the timeline for the work will be known in coming days.

What is known now is that the 15-story tower's lobby will close during repairs. That will leave residents, many elderly and who’ve already lost their parking garage, to enter the building at 101 S. Gulfstream Ave., in side or other out-of-the-way entrances. Residents will also lose access to their mailboxes.

“OK, so they should have done it earlier. They didn’t. So now it’s just costing a lot more money to get it done.” — Joanne McIntyre, property manager at The 101 Condominium

The biggest impact, though, will be felt by merchants with shops along the Palm Avenue side of the building. The repair work has left them scrambling as they face moving or closing their stores for what could be months — if not forever.

“They all kind of have different plans,” Toale says. “There’s one in particular who’s definitely decided that she’s moving — she’s actually moving down the street to a different space.”

That retailer is Charlotte’s Grace, a home goods store. The shop was closed Friday, April 29, but crews were inside packing, and a few employees were carrying or moving items presumably to the new location. A woman inside declined to comment, but a Facebook post for the store says it is moving “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

Several other tenants say they are weighing their options before announcing their decisions. In the past, these same tenants have said they could not afford to close temporarily or even move.

The retailers, though, do have a little bit of time to decide what’s next.


What's next

Joanne McIntyre, property manager at The 101 Condominium, says engineers and crews will work on the west side of the building, which faces Gulfstream Avenue, first and then move onto the east side, which faces Palm Avenue. Crews working on the exterior of the building will move in after the garage work is done on the west side of the building and move on to the east side when that’s complete.

Repair work on the three-story garage will strengthen the connections between some of the columns in the garage and the parking decks. The fix involves supporting the parking decks around the columns requiring corrective work with temporary supports called shoring — used to support a building to prevent collapse.

To do that work, shoring posts must be placed across parts of the building that are under the garage in order to stabilize the deck while crews pound away on repairs. And this is what will cause the biggest disruptions for retailers and residents.

The shoring posts are, in essence, heavy-duty poles with wide bases used to hold up parts of the ceiling. Because they are wide at the bottom for stabilization —and because of the amount of space being worked on — these shoring posts will be installed around the building where needed. Walk through the lobby and the retail portion of the building today, and you’ll see dozens of spots marked by blue construction tape where the posts will go.

Because the posts take up so much space, the building’s lobby will have to close while the work is done. McIntyre is already cleaning out her office in the lobby in order to move to an upstairs office while work is underway. As for the retailers, the shoring posts are so large that they’ll take up vast amounts of space, making it impossible to conduct business.

This project, challenging as it might be for residents and tenants, is a far cry from what needed to be addressed at the former Dolphin Tower 12 years ago.


Previous issues

Structural issues were discovered in the building’s fourth floor in 2010, which forced residents to evacuate. The building also closed for several years. The problem was so severe that if not addressed in time it could have led to a collapse similar to the one at the 12-story Champlain Tower South in Surfside last year.

McIntyre says the issues being addressed this time are “absolutely different” from what happened before.

These current issues were first discovered during the structural strengthening project on the building eight years ago. An engineer at that time found that the connection between some of the columns and the parking deck was not strong enough. Despite the discovery, the work wasn’t done back then. 

McIntyre, who wasn’t working at the building then, says that when the time came to beautify the building, it was decided the garage should be fixed at as well. “OK, so they should have done it earlier," she says. "They didn’t. So now it’s just costing a lot more money to get it done.”

In addition to the garage work, the latest project includes fixing the stucco on the side of the building, painting it and then waterproofing balconies. Toale says the work is meticulous and that it’s important every step is done correctly because the stucco and paint are “the first line of defense against water intrusion” that can, over time, lead to structural damage.

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