Miami Beach

With the press of a button, this South Beach eyesore finally came down

Watch the demolition of the former South Shore Hospital in Miami Beach

The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital was demolished Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at the corner of 6th Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida.
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The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital was demolished Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at the corner of 6th Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida.

It took less than 20 seconds to bring down a building that has blighted the entrance to South Beach for more than a decade.

On Tuesday morning, the abandoned South Shore Hospital at 630 Alton Road collapsed in a cloud of dust. Explosives blasted the building supports and gravity pulled the structure down, leaving a heap of concrete chunks on the site.

It took 235 pounds of dynamite placed in more than 400 locations in the structure to implode the building, according to Mark Loizeaux, the president of Controlled Demolition Inc. The explosives were detonated in rapid succession, emitting loud bangs, followed by the booming noise of the building coming down.

After the dust settled, cleanup crews worked to clear debris and dust from the corner of Alton Road and Sixth Street near the entrance to the MacArthur Causeway. The road, which was closed between Fifth and Seventh streets shortly before the 10 a.m. implosion, had reopened by 11:30 a.m.

Residents in nearby condo buildings had been advised to close their windows and doors to prevent dust from getting into their homes. Police secured the area between West Avenue and Lenox Avenue ahead of the demolition to prevent anyone from getting close to the site.

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The skeleton of the South Shore Hospital during its demolition at the corner of Sixth Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Daniel A. Varela dvarela@miamiherald.com

Miami Beach doesn’t typically allow implosions, which involve explosives, instead requiring demolitions to be performed using mechanical equipment such as cranes and excavators. City officials initially rejected demolition contractor BG Group’s request to demolish the South Shore Hospital using implosion, but the developer successfully appealed through the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals.

BG Group said it opted for implosion, which was carried out with Controlled Demolition Inc., because the company believed it was the safest option for the site. When explosives are used to demolish a building, BG Group partner Steve Greenberg said, workers don’t have to be near the building when it falls.

In this head-on view of the former Marlborough House's demolition, you can see the debris strike the person later identified as AlliedBean's project manager and the manager unconscious when the dust clears.

The implosion of the South Shore Hospital came less than a year after the demolition of an oceanfront condo building at 5775 Collins Avenue sent debris flying, killing a worker. Although that demolition was carried out by different companies using a different method, the developers and demolition companies involved in the South Shore Hospital implosion held a meeting in early April to reassure residents.

Now that the concrete skeleton of the South Shore Hospital is gone, developers can begin the next phase of a project that will include a three-acre public park, a 519-foot, 44-story high-rise and 15,000 square feet of retail space.

The project was shaped by months of negotiations and more than 100 meetings between residents and developer Russell Galbut’s company, Crescent Heights. In exchange for permission from the City Commission to build what will end up being one of the tallest buildings in Miami Beach, the developer agreed to create a public park on the site with water absorption components designed to soak up floodwater. The developer has also agreed to build an elevated platform for a pedestrian bridge over Fifth Street that will be funded through Miami Beach’s $439 million general obligation bond program.

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The remains of the South Shore Hospital after it was demolished at the corner of Sixth Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiherald.com

“Today we’re going to get rid of this horrible eyesore and we’re going to replace it with a beautiful, resilient three-acre park,” Mayor Dan Gelber said a few minutes before the implosion. “This is the beginning of something really special,” added Gelber, who had encouraged the developer and residents to reach an agreement on plans for the site.

Galbut, who partnered with David Martin of Terra Group after reaching an agreement with the city, said that they plan to finish building the park during the summer of 2020. The next step, according to Terra Group Vice President and Director of Development Ellen Buckley, is for the city’s land use boards to review designs for the project. That’s scheduled to happen at the end of April and in early May.

The South Shore Hospital has a long history in Miami Beach as a geriatric facility. It was founded in 1968 but struggled financially when South Beach’s demographics changed in the 1990s and younger people moved to the area.

Crescent Heights bought the nonprofit facility in 2004 for $35 million and converted it to a for-profit medical center, but it had a slew of administrative problems. The hospital was badly damaged in 2005 when the windows on the west side of the building were blown out by Hurricane Wilma. It closed in 2006 after going bankrupt.

Kyra Gurney lives in Miami Beach and covers the island for the Miami Herald. She attended Columbia University and Colorado College and grew up in New Mexico.
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