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Movin’ On Up: A Florida Condo Elevator Retrofit Brings an Activities Center to Life

Every once in a while commercial construction project presents some very unique challenges, especially when faced with the needs of an active, yet aging South Florida population. Such was the case with one multiple tower condominium community in Broward County that needed to come up to code and “elevate” its activities center. In this article, we’ll not only look at one special construction project, but also the larger matter of investing in amenities.

Compliance and Convenience Offer Challenges and Rewards

The Olympus Condominium complex was built in the 1970s and sits on a man-made island on the Intracoastal Waterway, just north of Hallandale Beach Boulevard in Hallandale Beach, Florida. The complex consists of three residential buildings that contain 1,090 individual living units. The activity center was one of the more popular amenities but was shut down due to a major hurricane. In addition to the significant repair work needed, the two-story activities center also needed to be brought up to code and compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The Homeowners Association felt it was time to construct a new elevator between two of the towers. Adding this feature would not only serve the current residents better (including an increasing number disabled residents) but also appeal to year-rounders, younger residents and family heirs who might consider selling their inherited units. The HOA rightly believed that a new and more accessible activity center would be a major plus for the complex, especially when compared to other aging residential buildings.

GSD Contracting, an activity center renovation contractor and South Florida commercial contractor, leveraged its expertise to win the job and accept the challenge of creating a totally new elevator.

The Value of Accessible Amenities

Before we get into the specifics of this GSD Contracting project, we need to look at the value of upgrading amenities. Of course, getting residents to buy in to any major capital project can be a challenge in itself – perhaps the biggest challenge for a community’s HOA. But there’s a lot to be said for investing in the right amenities. According to various sources, the best amenities to invest in – in terms of increasing property value and return on investment  – are recreational facilities, walking trails, etc. In fact, a recent survey by the National Apartment Association indicates that people will pay more for buildings that provide…

  • a pet friendly environment
  • fitness/recreation center
  • swimming pool

Other studies have confirmed that rentals values go up and vacancies go down with the addition or upgrading of amenities.

Digging In and Rising to a Commercial Construction Challenge

Adding a new elevator to an existing structure is not an ideal situation, but it had to be done. As a Broward County commercial construction company, we called on our engineers to come up with a plan for this community’s activities center.

It began with digging a large enough whole to accommodate the elevator pit. Cutting and testing the hole revealed that the water table was 2’6” below our intended slab. Problem was we needed to get more than 5’ below the existing slab in order to pour the concrete. We contracted with a company to inject structural foam around the elevator pit area in order to stabilize the soil and make the water manageable through pumping. Next, we installed four pilings for the elevator shaft to bear on.  This required bringing in a medium-size excavator which, because of height restrictions, necessitated removing the cab. Shortened pin pile sections to 3’ were utilized.

Now the pit could be formed and the concrete poured.  After the elevator pit was poured, a block mason laid up the first floor elevator shaft. Next, the second floor opening (in a 9 ½” thick slab!) was cut out and tied into the elevator shaft. The shaft was then blocked up from second floor to the roof. Roofing was cut through with the elevator shaft top tie beam and hoist beam, then set and poured.

It was certainly a challenge, but with our community amenities construction knowledge and vision, we got it done!