Miami Beach Condo Allows Owners Back

Robert Berman had been a resident of Castle Beach Condominium for close to a decade when he learned that he and the owners of the building’s 586 units had to leave.

The condo, built in 1967, suffered structural damage and electrical wiring defects that led Miami Beach city engineers to close the building in April 2005.

”Being homeless is one of the worst experiences in the world,” said Berman, 62. “It was a horrible feeling.” Robert Stone, a certified public accountant, was given responsibility for the building by a Miami-Dade County Court. He notified residents in a May 2005 letter that while repairs to the 18-story building, at 5445 Collins Ave., were being made, they would have to continue paying their monthly maintenance and assessments.

For Berman, that meant a $490 monthly maintenance fee and $600 in special assessments, not including his regular monthly mortgage. Residents also had to pay rent for temporary housing or seek refuge with friends and family. Stone’s letter estimated that repairs would cost about $20 million and take six months. It turned out to be 2 ½ years.

Castle Beach Condo board president Caridad Amores said all major safety issues have been resolved and 80 percent of the building’s structural damage has been repaired.

Residents celebrated the building’s reopening in November. ”It definitely was a loss having to pay the mortgage, maintenance, special assessment fees and rent for temporary housing,” said Francesco Stipo, 34, an international business attorney who moved into one of the penthouses in 2003. ”I’m very happy to be back,” he said. “It’s like waking up after a nightmare.”

The building, which first opened as the Hilton Plaza, has had many reincarnations and names.

Vanessa Arellano Doctor

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