ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Heavy rains have brought big problems to the downtown St. Petersburg area this month, from flooding to drainage issues.
Now, 10Investigates has uncovered that city code enforcement wants to know if a brand new, high-priced luxury apartment building is structurally sound.
Bainbridge Companies finished construction on 930 Central Flats less than a year ago on St. Pete’s thriving Central Avenue.
Both elevators at 930 Central Flats have been broken for three weeks after the first level of the building’s garage flooded during a rainstorm.
That leaves renters like Carey Hooper, who is six months pregnant, struggling up to her sixth-floor apartment after a long day at work.
“I’m a little nervous, if anything happens, how I’m going to get out of here. How I would walk down seven flights of stairs in an emergency," Hooper said. "Every time it rains, the stairwells are wet, and there’s puddles, and I’m carrying my child up and down the stairs, already unsteady from the pregnancy."
Invited inside the parking garage by a tenant, 10News saw crumbling concrete at the base of some support beams, as well as the floor lifting up around those beams.
Last week, a renter called St. Petersburg Code Enforcement out there.
The inspector found the following violations:
- Spalling concrete southwest of the corner of the garage
- Uplift of the parking floor
- A certified engineering report is required to ensure the building is structurally sound
- Elevators at the property must be in sound working condition
- PVC Pipe at the southwest corner of the lower level garage in disrepair
Code Enforcement wrote, “A certified engineering report is required to [ensure the] building is structurally sound.”
10Investigates took code enforcement’s report and photos to Structural Engineering and Inspections, Inc. President Tom Miller.
“It is absolutely imperative that somebody get out there and investigate that,” Miller said. “There’s not enough evidence right now to say that they’re not safe, but they need to move timely to get it investigated.”
Bainbridge Companies manages the building and did the construction.
No one from their team would meet for an interview. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson wrote:
“Due to the recent heavy rains in the St. Petersburg area, our apartment community, 930 Central Flats, experienced damage. Our diligent, dedicated associates are currently focused on helping residents manage through the frustrations associated with the damage to our garage and elevator. Our goal is to minimize the impact on every resident as we act quickly to restore our community to the condition it was in prior to the water damage.
We did have a structural engineer review the damage to the garage. Their report indicated they were not aware of any risks to the structural integrity of the building.”
10Investigates asked Bainbridge for a copy of that engineer’s report. They haven't yet sent it.
Bainbridge did send an email to renters, offering a 50 percent rent credit for September and October, alternative parking, and a “concierge service to help you carry anything you may need help with up the stairs.”
Hooper said that’s not enough, but moving out isn’t an option for her family.
“How are we going to break our lease and move a 2-bedroom apartment, or even just like a 1-bedroom, and our dogs, and our babies, and everything out down seven flights of stairs?” Hooper said. “We’re all just so frustrated and we just feel so trapped because there’s nothing that we can do about it.”
Renters with dogs are struggling with the lack of elevators.
Allison Rose has to bribe her dog, Sammie, with treats to get him up the stairs. He's scheduled to undergo hip surgery soon.
"He is really struggling with the stairs and so are some of the residents for various reasons," Rose explained. "[I] would love to break my lease, but the thought of moving out from the fifth floor with no elevator service is a little overwhelming.”
Chuck and Kelly Lewis have two dogs. Their 50-pound dog can't use the stairs and must be carried.
“We pay $2,950 a month including pet rent and an extra parking spot and to not have these major issues dealt with in a professional and timely manner is beyond unacceptable," Kelly explained. "Hurricane season is just starting, and I fear for what is yet to come here.”
Another resident, Peggy Dupee, said she has been emailing management but cannot get a straight answer.
“Are we safe as residents living here?" Dupee asked. "Should I worry that the building is unsafe now?”
10News is pressing Bainbridge on what their repair plan is and when it will be done. The city gave Bainbridge Companies until Sept. 7 to correct the violations. If that doesn’t happen, the city could take legal action.
That could include citations, a Code Enforcement Board hearing, or a notice to appear in county court. Code enforcement said any of those legal actions could come with a lien on the property or a fine of up to $500 a day.
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