Edgewater Building Implosion Startles Residents, Shoots Debris Into Biscayne Bay

Update: A DERM spokesperson tells New Times that the demolition is being investigated and 700 Edgewater LLC has been issued a cease and desist notice. 

At 9 a.m. Saturday, Edgewater residents woke up to a roaring boom and shaking walls. Some tumbled out of bed. Others grabbed their phones, ready to call police.

The explosion wasn't terrorism or a terrible accident, though — it was yet another building demolition making way for a new luxury condo tower. But this blast has residents and activists up in arms amid allegations that neighbors weren't properly warned and that the demolition shot trash into environmentally sensitive Biscayne Bay.

“You’re not allowed to shovel anything into the bay, let alone a demolition of this size,” says Ken Russell, a city commission candidate running for District 2's seat in next week's election. “The bay is all we got as a community. If that ecosystem is disrupted, it’ll impact our future environmentally, but also economically.”

Russell says the building owners' lack of outreach to the neighborhood was unacceptable. It's not clear exactly what precautions they took to notify residents, though Russell says letters may have been delivered to some surrounding buildings. The implosion was heard within a half-mile radius of the 700 NE 26th Ter. site, though.

According to Miami-Dade property records, 700 Edgewater LLC purchased the 12-story building for $21.5 million in February 2014. Records list Oleg Baybakov, a Russian mining-oligarch-turned-developer, as director. The developing entity submitted plans to build a 649-foot residential tower on the property — the maximum height allowed in the area.

Reached by New Times, Steven Cronig, the registered agent for 700 Edgewater LLC, declined to comment on complaints about the demolition project.

But Russell isn't alone with his concerns. Many Edgewater residents took to social media to criticize the lack of warning. Alex Rodriguez and her boyfriend live four buildings south of the demolition site. Rodriguez says she vaguely remembers seeing fliers about a neighborhood safety meeting pinned in the lobby and elevators of her building a month before the demolition. Weeks went by, and on Saturday, she forgot about it. She woke up terrified.

“Loud, destructive booms is really the only way I can think to describe it,” she says. “About five seconds later, this yellowish cloud of dust reached our apartment. The cloud engulfed the area, and you couldn’t see a foot in front of you.”

Then there are concerns about the environmental impact. Russell says he's written to the EPA about the project. Video footage shows tons of debris from the building landing in Biscayne Bay. Dave Johnson, an environmentalist at Coastal Steward’s Miami outpost, says he fears local endangered coral will be smothered by debris and worries about the threat to wildlife if any asbestos or toxic materials fell into the water too.

“I watched the video three times and was horrified. I didn’t see any barriers,” Johnson says. “They could’ve done it the right way and made sure it didn’t land in the water. This could’ve been prevented.”

This isn’t the first time debris from a building demolition fell into the bay. Last April, Genting was criticized when it unexpectedly demolished a part of the old Miami Herald building, sending a cloud of debris into the bay.

“This was a massive event that freaked a lot of people out. They didn’t know what it was, some calling 911 — it could’ve been an attack for all they knew,” Russell says.

After the demolition, DERM sent a biologist to the bay and confirmed debris had fallen in. DERM issued 700 Edgewater LLC a field notice to cease and desist work until the debris has been removed. If they fail to clean it up, they could be fined.
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Jess Swanson is the news editor at New Times. She graduated from the University of Miami and has a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.
Contact: Jess Swanson

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