Champlain Towers Timeline


Developer Nathan Reiber begins developing the Champlain Towers condominium complex along with Champlain Towers South Associates, a partnership made up of 15 different development companies that each owned between 4.17% and 12.5% of the project.

William Friedman is chosen to design the building. He was licensed in 1955 and led the Coral Gables-based firm William M. Friedman & Associates Architects. In 1966, he was suspended for six months over a pylon issue that resulted in structures toppling during Hurricane Betsy. The Florida Board of Architecture found him in violation of Florida law and guilty of “gross incompetency, in that he negligently, improperly, and carelessly” designed the pylons. Friedman passed away in 2018 at 88.



Lead structural engineer Sergio Breiterman of Breiterman Jurado & Associates certifies that “the structural portions of the [Champlain Towers] project comply with the requirements of the approved drawings and specifications and the South Florida Building Code.”

In 1972, Breiterman signed off on a new, five-story Public Safety Building in Coral Gables that, within months of completion, “leaked like a sieve,” “smelled like wet ­dog,” and developed cracks in the garage because of a dangerous construction flaw. Records show Breiterman overlooked at least one critical and potentially life-threatening construction defect — insufficient steel reinforcements in parts of the concrete structure. Breiterman Jurado & Associates dissolved in 1992.

In the summer of 1980, the developers pivot from the original building plans approved by the city and apply to add an additional floor to the building, an uncommon practice at the time. The proposed penthouse floor would raise the tower from 12 to 13 stories, adding an extra 9 feet of height – violating the town’s height limits. The last-minute addition was hotly contested by the community of Surfside, but ultimately the developers won out and the permit was granted. It is unclear if the weight of the extra floor was considered in terms of its effect on the structural integrity of the building.

In May, one day after the structural drawings were updated to include the extra floor, George Batievsky resigns as the general contractor. He is replaced by Alfred Weisbrod, who received his license just nine months before to the job. Records show that between 1981 and 2000, Weisbrod was involved in two dozen civil lawsuits, the majority for construction work, with judgments against him totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before surrendering his license in 1998 after multiple complaints of “negligence,” “incompetency or misconduct,” county records show he mostly worked on small-scale projects such as window replacements in single-family homes.



Champlain Towers South is completed in 11 months and 10 days, as well as the smaller Champlain Towers North. The complex was the first new project built in Surfside after a county moratorium on new developments during the 1970s.



A third tower, Champlain Towers East is erected.



Just 15 years after being built, Champlain Towers South undergoes a significant concrete structural repair and waterproofing after 500 feet of cracks were discovered in the roof of its underground parking garage.



Champlain Towers resident Matilde Fainstein sues Champlain Towers South Condominium Association alleging one of the building's outer walls had not been maintained properly and that the building's owners “failed to repair or negligently repaired the common elements and the outside walls of the building.” The lawsuit stated that water had started coming in through cracks in the outer wall to Fainstein’s terrace in the prior year, causing damage exceeding $15,000. She had previously taken the same issue to court, where the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association was found liable, according to the complaint. It was settled in 2017, according to a court filing.



In October, the condo association board hires the engineering firm Morabito Consultants to review the Champlain Towers South ahead of the mandatory recertification process for buildings that reach 40 years. The nine-page report warns of “major structural damage” to concrete underneath the pool and entrance drive that it traced to insufficient drainage and that “failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.” The report also notes “abundant cracking” in concrete beams in the parking garage and suggests that previous attempts to repair the damage had failed.

Ross Prieto, Surfside’s top building official, meets with the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association after receiving the Morabito Consultants report in November. According to an email and minutes of the meeting released by the town, Prieto assures the board that “it appears the building is in very good shape.”


April 2021:

Ahead of a special meeting, the president of the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Jean Wodnicki, writes to residents warning that “observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse” since Morabito's initial report in 2018. The letter stated that damage to the structure's concrete support system was “accelerating” and “would begin to multiply exponentially” in coming years and that the steel rebar used to strengthen the building's concrete “is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface.”

Wodnicki said fixing the problems would now cost an estimated $16 million.


June 22, 2021:

Just 36 hours before the collapse, a pool contractor photographs standing water and damage in the parking garage and notes cracking concrete and severely corroded rebar under the pool. The contractor visited the building to prepare a bid for a cosmetic restoration of the pool.


June 24, 2021:

At around 1:20 a.m. the condo tower shakes and then partially collapses, destroying about 55 apartment units and killing 98 victims.