MIAMI (WSVN) - Former residents of the Champlain Towers South condo are now having their say about what they want to see happen to the space where the building once stood.
A hearing was held in Miami, Wednesday morning. Last week, it was announced that the court would proceed with the sale of the site. Property owners and survivors have different opinions on what should be done with the site, which has been cleared of rubble and debris.
“We need to put a memorial. That is a gravesite. I left that in my mind that evening saying, ‘That’s a gravesite,'” one woman said. “I saw with my two eyes, the pancake. I opened the stairwell door, and I heard a woman crying for help that I couldn’t help.”
Judge Michael Hanzman on Wednesday reiterated that the focus will be getting the victims’ families and survivors compensation as soon as possible, which will include the sale of the property.
“My job and your job is to make sure these victims get whatever they are legally entitled to,” Hanzman said. “They own the land. They are legally entitled to its fair market value. Period. A government option is fantastic. Paying fair value for this property and putting up a memorial. My experience typically is that the private sector makes decisions and moves at a much faster pace.”
It is estimated the victims, the families of the victims and the survivors will receive $150 million in compensation, excluding any additional lawsuits.
Some unit owners said they’d like to explore the option of rebuilding the building and the ability for them to move back to where they call home. Others said the site should be a permanent public memorial to the souls lost.
“I don’t think it’s about profit here,” survivor Paolo Lombardi said. “It’s really about having the chance to go back to the place where we called home.”
“I’m just trying to be helpful to my neighbors and to the community,” one man said. “If there’s anything I can do to help explore these other options than just a straight-up land sale. Maybe there’s an opportunity to find other structures that could potentially grow the pot to help the owners and help the victims that tragically were lost in this.”
“There is a method where owners who want to stay can get units,” survivor Oren Cytrynbaum said. “Owners who want to get paid out as if it was a traditional land sale will get paid out.”
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade Police identified 24-year-old Anastasiya Gromova and 58-year-old Linda March as the latest victims of the partial collapse. The death toll stands at least at 98. March was renting the unit seen with bunk beds hanging on the edge of what was left standing.
Some ventured to the Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial to pay their respects to the victims.
“We actually wanted to come in person and say a few silent prayers for these families,” West Palm Beach resident Amy Rivera said. “It should be a memorial. I mean, we’re not just talking about business moves. We’re talking about lives that were lost.”
“I don’t know. The land is the land,” Miami resident Robert Daniels said. “If people were to develop it and buy into it, life goes on. It’s like a tree that you cut down and put another one there.”
The next steps are for the attorneys to move forward with finding an appraiser to get an idea of a fair market value for the property and try to figure out how to get any profits from the sale of the property to the unit owners.
“Maybe it’s not a long shot,” Hanzman said. “Maybe it’s viable, but it just seems like something that has a lot of moving parts, will require a lot of negotiation. You have my word — which I gave you last time and give you again — that all options will be considered.”
The attorneys are expected to be back in court next week.
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