SPI's 'leaning tower' to be demolished

Source: http://www.riograndeguardian.com/rggnews_story.asp?story_no=4#

Ocean Tower

SPI's 'leaning tower' to be demolished

21 September 2009


SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Sept. 21 - Ocean Tower, the 31-story building dubbed by many as the “leaning tower of South Padre Island," is to be demolished.

The 158-unit skyscraper, situated on the north end of the island, was sinking slowly into the sand.

The tower will be demolished, probably in mid-November, through implosion by Controlled Demolition, Inc., the company that set a Guinness World Record when it “imploded” the Seattle Kingdome.

“After careful consideration, we believe it is in the best interest of all parties involved, including the people of South Padre Island, to demolish Ocean Tower,” said Ocean Tower, LP, in a prepared statement.

“Unfortunately, multiple engineering studies have led us to the conclusion that it is not economically feasible to complete the building and to provide the caliber of condominium tower that we intended to build. We believe the responsible action at this point is to clear the site to enable potential future development of the property.”

In the statement, Oceans Tower said it is important for residents and visitors to know the problems with the building are specific to this project. “We believe South Padre Island remains a viable and desirable place to build that continues to attract economic development and growth,” the statement said.

Construction of Ocean Tower was halted in summer 2008 after it was determined that the building had experienced differential settlement of more than 14 inches, which resulted in cracks in the beams and columns of the structure.

It was supposed to offer a luxurious setting for South Padre Island tourists, with 134 condominiums on 25 floors. Four high-speed elevators were installed along with fine interior design, luxurious bathrooms, gourmet kitchens, security, hydro-jet pools, a Beach Club; a Kid’s Club, a gym & spa, a media room and much more. Penthouse and condominiums levels were available ranging from two-bedrooms with two-baths to three-bedrooms with three-baths.

Developers of nearby properties were concerned that news about Ocean Tower's safety would hurt their projects.

Last November, Antun T. Domit, of Ocean Tower SPI, sent a letter to buyers of condominiums in Ocean Tower to say there were no immediate prospects for completion of the project. Local realtors had begun selling units in the building to local Rio Grande Valley residents, as well as some from Mexico, Canada and Europe.

“With the future of Ocean Tower in serious question, we release you from your purchase
agreement and plan to immediately return your earnest money,” Domit wrote.

“This has been a difficult decision for us to make, but under the circumstances and given our desire to maintain your trust, we feel that we have no alternative. Obviously, no one anticipated the extensive delay or the problems the project is presently suffering. We are taking steps to have your earnest money returned.”

Since Domit issued his statement last November, Coastal Constructors, the general contractors for the project, have been dismissed from a lawsuit filed in connection with the project. In its statement on Monday, Ocean Tower, LP, acknowledged that litigation is currently pending against the geotechnical and structural engineers of Ocean Tower. There are claims that the settlement of the condominiums is the result of a flawed engineering design.

Ocean Tower, LP, said it has hired one of the nation’s premier demolition firms, Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI), to demolish the tower through implosion. The company promises as little impact as possible on the local community.

CDI has safely demolished thousands of structures worldwide, including the Seattle Kingdome, the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Mark Loizeaux, president of CDI, said his company is in the process of establishing a site office and mobilizing resources at Ocean Tower. He said CDI will maintain frequent communication with regulatory agencies and adjacent property owners to ensure the local community’s concerns are addressed.

“In the coming weeks, we will be contacting nearby property owners, listening to their needs and keeping them informed throughout the process,” Loizeaux said. “We have been demolishing structures for more than 65 years and have an unparalleled safety and success record. Our methods are designed to minimize disruption, optimize safety and protect adjacent properties and the environment. We will conduct the Ocean Tower demolition with the utmost sensitivity to the local community.”

More than 98 percent of the above-grade materials used to build Ocean Tower will be recycled or reused, including all steel and concrete, according to Ocean Tower, LP. Steel and concrete can be recycled for other development projects in the region. Items that can be removed safely and reused, such as bathtubs, granite flooring and windows, are currently being removed from the building, the company said.