Judge to Lofts owner: clock ticking to clear your tons of fallen brick

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Dark blue tarps cover section where Alexander Lofts bricks fell off through roof of law office below

On his way to a hearing to force owners of the neighboring Alexander Lofts to clear their platform and tons of bricks off his downtown office roof, lawyer Bill Price decided to swing by his old building. Sure enough, Lofts contractors were out there with their men and machines all over his property.

“So they’re spending money fixing their wall and not taking the bricks and platform off,” he said Friday.

By court order, that work was supposed to be done days ago, so Price could fix the damage caused in March and April by bricks cascading off RAM Realty’s Lofts property and through his roof.

At the hearing Friday morning, Judge Meenu Sasser gave RAM another week to clear its workers’ platform and the bricks off Price’s roof, according to Price.

RAM meanwhile is appealing her rulings to the 4th District Court of Appeal. The company’s attorney declined comment while the case is pending.

Price says RAM at least complied with the part of the judge’s order to shore up the law building so that he could retrieve case files, art and furniture from the building at 320 Fern St. But he said it’s clear now the roof will have to be replaced. Meanwhile, his firm is operating out of temporary quarters two blocks away.

Alexander Lofts owners ordered to shore-up law office smashed by falling bricks

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The owners of a downtown West Palm Beach apartment building whose brick wall twice smashed through the roof of a law office below have been ordered to shore-up the office so the law firm can retrieve client files and assess damage.

Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser this morning ruled for William W. Price, P.A., whose one-story law offices at 320 Fern St. were hit by tons of falling brick March 3 and April 6 from the east wall of the Alexander Lofts, at 326 Fern.

The law firm’s senior partner, Bill Price, had filed a motion to force RAM Realty Services, owners of the apartments, to remove a wooden platform they placed atop the law building and to shore-up the building so that the city would allow re-entry.

The judge agreed, giving RAM seven days to structurally shore-up the interior, and ordering the company to remove its wooden platform and the bricks that were left on the law firm’s damaged roof.

“Mr. Price’s undisputed testimony clearly establishes the irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and his law practice,” she wrote.

“It’s a great victory for the little guy,” said Price, whose staff has been working in temporary quarters two blocks away since the initial cave-in.


This key West Palm rail crossing is closing for four days. Here’s how to get around.

Work to lay railroad track for All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger rail service will block Okeechobee Boulevard for four days in May.

(Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
(Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Brightline is laying a second line of track along the Florida East Coast right-of-way, just west of Okeechobee’s interesection with Quadrille Boulevard. Eastbound and westbound lanes of Okeechobee will be closed from 8 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 17.

Workers will be on-site 24 hours a day during this time.

As part of the work, the company also is making safety upgrades as part of a miles-long “quiet zone,” silencing train horns at railroad crossings from West Palm Beach to Boca Raton.

“All Aboard Florida worked closely with the City of West Palm Beach and Town of Palm Beach to determine the schedule and closure details,” spokeswoman Ali Soule said. “We collectively decided this plan would be the least impactful and less confusing for the public.”

Read more about the work here.

We’ve put together a helpful map with an alternate route and key spots to avoid to help you navigate the construction.

Aside from this route to help you better navigate downtown, we also suggest taking Belvedere Road to the south and Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to the north.

Protective deck to cap West Palm law building hit by brick avalanche

This morning a crane will lower a protective deck onto the downtown law building hit by an avalanche of bricks from the neighboring apartment building two weeks ago.

The deck will protect the law offices of William A. Price, at 320 Fern St., from further damage as workers pull away more of the Alexander Lofts’ buckling brick facade.

Workers build platform to be hoisted on top of William Price P.A. , before a crane will hoisting it onto the top of William Price P.A., law office next to Alexander Lofts on Fern Street downtown West Palm Beach, March 18, 2016. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
Workers build platform to be hoisted on top of William Price P.A. , before a crane will hoisting it onto the top of William Price P.A., law office next to Alexander Lofts on Fern Street downtown West Palm Beach, March 18, 2016. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)


Bill Price, who with his law firm colleagues emerged scraped but alive, said that laborers worked 24/7 to craft the platform, which a crane is scheduled to lower onto his building at 8 a.m.

Four people were injured in the partial collapse of the 90-year-old building’s facade.

Lawyer Dan Britto partially separated his shoulder when he dove under a desk as the roof collapsed. Three paralegals who suffered what were described as minor injuries are out on Worker’s Comp, including one with a knee hurt while climbing out through the debris, Price said Thursday.

The paralegals were “literally in shock,” he said. “One was found walking in circles.”

Price said he’s lucky it has not rained since the hundreds of falling bricks left a hole like “a Grand Canyon” in the offices. He hasn’t been able to make repairs because of the danger of more falling bricks.

He’s not sure if his building can be salvaged but the walls are sound enough to support the protective deck, he was told.

Meanwhile, the firm is set up in temporary quarters but the accident remains very much with the employees, he said. If there’s a loud noise, like someone shutting a door, he said, “people jump up.”

“I have great admiration for our veterans in combat,” he added. “I’m just lucky I’m alive.”


West Palm plans to pick up and move apartments

Gardenia Building
316 Gardenia St., West Palm Beach

Usually people travel to hotels and not the other way around.

But West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency hopes to acquire a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia St. downtown and move it a mile northwest to 801 Fourth St., where it would be part of a bed and breakfast hotel.

It’s all part of the agency’s effort to revive the Northwest neighborhood by attracting African-American tourism, playing off the historic Alice Moore home, the Storm of ’28 site and the Sunset Lounge, where Ellington and Basie once played.

CRA officials say the owners of a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia were considering razing the 94-year-old structure to develop the land. Meanwhile the former Moore home, at 801 Fourth, was being considered for use as a bed and breakfast for cultural tourists, but with only three rooms wasn’t big enough.

So, provided a deal can be worked out with the Gardenia owners, the CRA wants to move the Gardenia building to Fourth Street, since its additional 12 rooms would make the B&B more viable.

The CRA would require that the owners, the Johnson family, pay for the move, which could cost about $200,000, CRA Executive Director Jon Ward said. The city would not close on the deal until after the building was tented — it’s infested with bees — and until after it survived the move intact, he said.

Renovations are expected to cost between $900,000 and $1.2 million, plus $250,000 already set aside in the budget for foundation work and repairs.

Ward said the move could take place within 90 days, and would take a day to complete. “I think it would be fun to watch,” he said.

The commissioners approved the project unanimously Monday.







West Palm rule encourages rooftop parking murals

A rooftop parking deck in Miami.

With high-rises springing up downtown, West Palm’s city staff is looking to improve architectural aesthetics from an often overlooked perspective — from above.

The city commission Monday approved a proposal to allow rooftop parking decks as long as developers adorned them with murals or trees.
The decks would either have to have 30 percent of the surface covered with trees or other irrigated plantings or screening structures such as trellises, or they’d have to be entirely covered with an artistic design, which would be coated for waterproofing and sun resistance. If they chose that scene-from-above option, they’d have to compensate for the lack of rooftop landscaping by adding more at ground level.
The design wouldn’t reduce a building’s other public art requirements.

New rail crossing considered to help rush hour traffic cut through downtown

Driving downtown on Okeechobee Boulevard, or trying to.

West Palm officials hearing an earful about traffic tie-ups don’t have all the answers. But they are looking at one option that might ease rush hour congestion for commuters.

They’re asking the Florida Department of Transportation to consider adding a crossing to the Tri-Rail tracks off Australian Ave.

Right now, a lot of morning commuters take Okeechobee Boulevard to northbound Australian Avenue and then turn east on Banyan Boulevard to get downtown. But Banyan has become quite a bottleneck.

Rendering of the planned Transit-Oriented Development, known as the T-O-D. The contemplated crossing would be on the far left, cutting through from Australian Boulevard to Fern Street.

So the thinking is to add a crossing south of Banyan and the huge Transit-Oriented Development that’s being developed. That way, many commuters could turn off Australian and cross the tracks at Fern Street, without having to go all the way to Banyan.

Not a panacea for downtown traffic woes but it could provide relief, officials say — much needed at a time when a trainload of development is on the way downtown.

“Micro” apartments proposed for downtown

Greene Banyan
Developer Jeff Greene’s latest downtown project: 400 “micro units” planned for the corner of Banyan Boulevard and Rosemary Avenue.

With downtown coming to life these days, people in their 20’s want to live there but have a tough time affording rents that range past $1,800 a month for a typical 1,100-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.

Jeff Greene says he has an answer for that.

The developer this week submitted plans for a 12-story apartment building at the corner of Banyan and Rosemary, that consists of “micro units.”

At about 450 square feet, the apartments will be less than half the size of a typical downtown one-bedroom — but at about half the rent. Greene says he plans to stuff the building with amenities to make up for the size of the units, such as common areas where renters can drink espresso and hang out.

He bought the 1.25-acre site, at 550 Banyan Blvd., in June 2014 for $3,477,500. It’s across the street from the police department, a block or so from Clematis Street, the train station, city hall and the courthouses and a few blocks from City Place.

Real estate investor Jeff Greene at the abandoned Sail Club on Executive Center Drive in West Palm Beach where Greene talked about his plans for the property Thursday, February 11, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Real estate developer Jeff Greene.

The building will house 400 apartments, with full kitchens and washer-dryers. Rents: roughly $995 to $1,200.

It’s being designed by Arquitectonica, the Miami firm that’s also designing the 30-story, two-tower office and hotel/condo

project he’s starting at 550 Quadrille Blvd., called One West Palm.

The micro units are not just for 20-somethings, he says. They could serve as inexpensive crash pads for attorneys or other professionals from Miami, for instance, who come to West Palm once in a while and want to be walking distance from everything. “It’s a cool pied a terre idea.”

“It’s meant to be luxury living but with smaller individual living spaces and great common areas,” he says. “It’s a trade-off.”