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Key West Building Official Says Santa Clara Condo Residents Can Stay, But Need To Make Repairs Fast

an image of the santa clara condominium in Key West
Nancy Klingener
The seven-story Santa Clara condominium is home to about 300 people.

Key West's top building official held off on condemning the 110-unit condo, but said he wants to see life-safety repairs made immediately and a plan for longer term fix within 45 days.

Residents of the Santa Clara condominium in Key West will not have to leave their homes, the city's top building official decided Monday.

The city held a condemnation hearing after an engineering report and inspection found multiple issues with the 40-year-old Santa Clara building. Those included water intrusion from the roof and major problems with one of the building's two stairwells.

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Building Official Raj Ramsingh gave the Santa Clara condominium board 15 days to come up with a plan to address immediate safety issues at the building. They have 45 days to come up with the plan for more general repairs and how to pay for them. He told the board to keep in close contact with his office.

"I do not want this to fall by the wayside as it has been shown to be done in the past, for whatever reason. Going forward, these repairs must be done," Ramsingh said.

He said condemnation is not off the table if repairs don't move forward on the complex, that has 110 units. It's units range from studios to two-bedroom condos and provide housing for many of Key West's workers. They are far more affordable than the average property in Key West.

"It is not our intention to condemn a building, given our situation with housing in the city," Ramsingh said. "But it is also not our intention to have a building that is unsafe for our citizens."

The engineer who has worked with the condo for decades said he could not make a recommendation on whether it should be condemned or not.

"I can't comment on the safety of the building, whether it's going to fall down, whether it's going to partly fall down, or whether pieces are going to fall off," J.L. Sanders said.

An engineer recently hired by the condominium association said it needs a comprehensive repair, and not the "triage" approach the condo had been taking.

"There is no doubt the building has suffered a considerable spalling or concrete deterioration over the years," Thomas Cheever said. But "after 35 years experience in doing this, I can say with certainty the building is repairable."

Some residents may have to move out during repairs that affect their individual units, Cheever said, but "the building as a whole, I found nothing to substantiate there was any threat of a partial, or even catastrophic, collapse."

The condo board president told Ramsingh that the board supports a $10 million assessment to pay for repairs and will vote on that Thursday. If all goes according to plan, the condo's engineer says major repairs could start early next year.

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Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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