Arsene Omega holds up a frame with a picture and handwritten note from his eldest daughter, Judith.
“I will fulfill my promise,” he begins to read the note before his voice fades to a soft sniffle.
Omega, who has four children, has been rummaging through papers in what used to be his office, when he finds the framed gift. Judith promised in the note to become a doctor (she did) and he promised her to keep Omega Fashions, his Little Haiti tailor and clothing design boutique, going.
It was a promise he could keep until nine days ago when a Miami-Dade County transit bus crashed into his store on Northwest 54th Street and Second Avenue.
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Hipolito Rodriguez, a 70-year-old Miami-Dade resident, ran a red light at the intersection around 9 a.m. Sept. 16, according to the police report. The bus, traveling north, hit Rodriguez’s car and then hurtled into Omega Fashions, “causing major damage to the structural support of the building,” the report said.
Five days later, the bus was safely removed and the building remained intact, due to nine support systems built by construction workers hired by Miami-Dade County.
Rodriguez, who declined to comment, had no car insurance, according to the police report.
Omega didn’t have property insurance on the 92-year-old building, which he bought in 1988 for $85,000, according to Miami-Dade property records. The building is on the market for $2.7 million on LoopNet, a real estate website.
Omega says he’s getting little information from either the city of Miami or Miami-Dade County, which employs the bus driver.
The city said it isn’t planning to compensate him, Miami spokeswoman Stephanie Severino said Tuesday. The spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Transit, Karla Damian, said the county does not comment on pending legal matters.
The city left a demolition notice taped to the back of the store on Sept. 20, the same day the bus was removed. The city gave Omega 72 hours to vacate the property, and set demolition in the first week of October, according to Omega. The notice stated the building was “an immediate danger,” and it needed to be demolished “immediately to prevent the further collapsing of the building and protect the life safety.”
To the eye, the inside of the building looks unscathed. The walls are intact, as are the roof and windows. The outside is a bit different — nine metal poles are holding up the front of the building and the door is damaged.
Omega has no idea how much damage was caused because he says the city hasn’t given him the building inspection report. He has been trying to get an estimator to assess building and potential costs.
According to the Miami-Dade County code, a building is deemed unsafe if it is vacant, accumulated debris, exhibits structural stress such as cracks, unusual sagging or if the ceilings, walls and roofs are collapsing or caving in.
The demolition order was signed by Miami’s chief building official, Maurice Pons, who did not return several telephone calls and an email from the Miami Herald.
According to Miami-Dade County code, buildings more than 40 years old require a structural and electrical inspection every 10 years and must be recertified by the county building official. Omega’s last recertification took place in 2016 and the city signed off on it.
Omega was not the only occupant of the building. Monique Hulan of Miramar ran a money transfer business in the building for the past seven years. Since Sunday, she has been helping Omega pack up his store.
Hulan said she has lost $2,000 in revenues since the crash. She doesn’t know what she‘ll do next.
“Life goes on,” she said in Creole.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated which government entity hired construction workers to build support systems after the bus crashed into the building.. Miami-Dade County hired the workers.