More than 10 years after the Dolphin Tower condominium in downtown Sarasota shut down because of structural problems that forced residents to evacuate, the tower will once again have to undergo major repairs that could affect both the residents and retail tenants on the property.
Jim Toale, president of The 101 Condominium Association of Sarasota, confirmed the work was needed, in an email exchange with the Business Observer. He said what happens to residents and retailers would be known by April 1, after the project’s contractor shares details.
“The contractor decides how they are going to execute the plans and specifications,” Toale wrote in the March 28 note. “It is obvious that there will be an impact to our residents, the commercial unit’s owner and her tenants, but we don’t have that detail yet from the contractor. We should have that information by the end of the week.”
The project, which could cost about $1 million, has some retailers in a section of the building that faces Palm Avenue and backs up to the garage worried. The big fear among the merchants is they’ll be forced to move — permanently or temporarily — to accommodate the work and are concerned about being able to survive the disruption in business. The Business Observer confirmed at least one local commercial real estate firm in the city has been reaching out to building owners in search of space for the Palm Avenue tenants to move.
The building, now known as The 101 Condominium, is in downtown Sarasota at 101 S. Gulfstream Ave. Built in the early 1970s, the Dolphin Tower, as it was then known, was shut down in 2010 after major structural issues were discovered on the fourth floor. Residents were forced to evacuate, and the building remained closed for several years.
According to published reports from the time, within a month of discovery, the problem was so severe it could have led to a collapse, similar to what happened to the 12-story Champlain Tower South in Surfside last year.
The problem this time is in the building’s three-story parking garage, which has closed for repairs.
According Toale, the current project “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,’” he writes. Shoring, according to the engineering blog The Structural World, is used to support a building to prevent collapse.
“For interior columns, the strengthening involves placing a collar around the tops of the first and second floor columns and physically attaching those collars to the column and the slab. For the columns at the perimeter of the building, reinforced concrete beams are constructed on the second and third floors which are tied into the columns and the slab below.”
Toale says the issue was first discovered during a structural strengthening project on the 15-story tower eight years ago. An engineer at that time found the connection between some of the columns and the parking deck was not strong enough. Despite the discovery, the engineer “did not place urgency on correcting the condition.”
The design to correct the issue was completed two years ago and a special assessment to complete the work was approved in November 2020.