This post provides background information for a presentation to the Baltimore Chapter of Lambda Alpha International (LAI) of $4.6 million plaza repair and restoration project at HIghfield House Condominiums in Baltimore and the impact in MD of changes in condominium requirements enacted following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in FL.
On June 24, 2021 the 12-story, 136 unit, Champlain Towers South condominium in the Miami, FL suburb of Surfside collapsed. The collapse took only 12 seconds, killed nearly 100 people, and was among the worst structural failures in US history.
Factors being investigated as causes for the collapse: long-term degradation of reinforced concrete structural support in the basement-level parking garage under the pool deck, due to water penetration and corrosion of the reinforcing steel. The problems had been reported in 2018 and noted as “much worse” in April 2021. A $15 million program of remedial works had been approved before the collapse, but the main structural work had not started. Other possible factors include land subsidence, insufficient reinforcing steel, and corruption during construction.
Highfield House Condominiums is one of only two buildings in Baltimore designed by the world renowned modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The building was completed in 1964 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It opened as a rental apartment project and was converted to condominiums in 1979.
In 2020, Highfield House owners approve a special assessment of nearly $4.3 million to repair and restore the large plaza that also serves as the roof of the building’s parking garage. The critical items addressed in Highfield House’s plaza repair and restoration project are the same as those identified as postential causes of the Champlain Tower collapse – water leaking into the parking garage leading to deterioration of concrete and steel support for the building. Plaza repair and restoration work at Highfield House was substantially completed in 2020. We believe Highfield Houses’ ability to obtain approval for, finance and complete major structural repairs provides an important case study for other condominium owners, particularly following the Champlain Towers South collapse.
At the LAI Balitimore Chapter meeting on Wednesday April 19, 2023 Highfield House owners and officers who worked for six year to obtain approval for and complete the plaza repair and restoration project will review:
- The effort and challenges to obtain 2/3rd approval for a $4 million + condo special assessment -Stephen Cleghorn – past president HH Condominium
- The scope of work and the surprises and challenges encountered – Tom Liebel, – Moseley Architects, led the design team for the HH plaza repair and restoration project.
- Challenges facing Maryland condominiums as a result of significant changes made in the 2022 session of the General Assembly – David Fishman – Highfield House board member and real estate attorney.
- Condominium development and redevelopment opportunities expected to appear in 2024 – Jerry Doctrow – former HH board member, and board president who oversaw financing for the plaza repair and restoration project.
An article from Common Ground magazine is attached below for LAI members to review in advance of our meeting followed by a the changes to MD condo law approved in 2022 and links to a few press articles on Champlain Towers South and the impact of changes in FL condo regulations. We encourage LAI members attending on April 19 read the item below before the meeting.