As victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse seek as much compensation as possible for their losses, some unit owners are proposing a creative way to boost the pot of money all will eventually share.
But, as with most things involving condo associations, not all owners are on board.
In Wednesday's weekly status hearing involving 34 lawsuits already filed, Miami-Dade Judge Michael Hanzman heard from some owners who think they could extract more from the assets than the $50 million in insurance coverage already pledged and what some estimate might be $100 million for the oceanfront lot in Surfside that the condo once sat on.
"Of course, the loss of our families, our friends, our neighbors is invaluable and there’s no amount of money that can replace them," Yadira Santos told the judge.
"I'm thinking, 'Why can't we rebuild where we call home?' I know it may be a longshot, impossible perhaps, but I know there’s a hope and I keep holding onto that," said Santos, who escaped her ninth-floor unit with her eight-year-old son.
Lawyers are tasked by Hanzman to raise as much as possible so it can be distributed as quickly as prudent in what will be class action litigation involving two groups: those who lost property and those who lost lives or suffered personal injury.
But, while it would take longer to work out than a quick sale of the lot only, some owners are exploring a possible competitive bidding process among developers, who would agree to pay for the land, provide new units to those survivors who want the and share profits with victims.
"Owners who want to stay can get units" in the newly constructed building, said Oren Cytrynbaum, an attorney who said he left his ninth-floor unit hours before the collapse. "Owners who want to get paid out as if it were a traditional land sale will get paid out. Developer will make profit and on top of that a share of the profits will go to a victims fund."
That, at least, is the rough idea he and other owners are exploring.
If Surfside were to up-zone the property to allow more valuable construction and raise the height limits so more space could be developed and sold, the property could be worth much more, the judge was told.
Hanzman said he would consider that and any other proposal, but he warned such a plan carries its own risks and could delay payments for some owners by years.
"It just seems like something that has a lot of moving parts, will require a lot of negotiations not only with a possible developer but with lenders, with families," the judge said.
Including families or owners, like Raysa Rodriguez, who said she would never set foot in a building built on what she called "a grave site."
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