By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Imagine paying up to $2 million for a condo on Tampa Bay, only to discover a few years later that the entire condo tower may be sinking into soft soils, on a man made island that was once the site of a railroad phosphate terminal.
Condo owners of Plaza Harbour Island have been coping with this knowledge since 2014, when signs of settling and cracking were first discovered. According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, condo units are still selling, but at reduced prices and cash sales only. Most buyers are scared away when they find out the condo association is involved in a lawsuit, and the potentially serious nature of the defects. Under the circumstances, lenders are unwilling to finance mortgages for units at Plaza Harbour Island.
Harbour Island is a master planned community established in the 1980s, but the Plaza condominium tower opened its doors in 2007. Some photos of what is now known as Harbour Island (formerly Seddon Island) show its history. The low-lying island was enlarged by dredging a channel in the early part of the 20th century. At one time the land was owned by the Seaboard Air Rail Line, and operated as a loading terminal for phosphates mined from Central Florida.
In the meantime, the Related Group has begun construction on two luxury apartment high-rises are under construction, adjacent to the Plaza.
Is one of Tampa Bay’s premier condo towers sinking?
It has been called Tampa’s “most prestigious building” and “the most refined expression of living” in all of Tampa Bay. The views are “stunning,” the amenities “fit for a king and queen.”
But is the Plaza Harbour Island sinking?
The Plaza condo association is embroiled in a lawsuit alleging that the 20-story, 144-unit tower built in 2007 is plagued with problems. Among them: exterior cracking that is the result of “significant subsidence concerns and structural design deficiencies.”
Geotechnical investigations found “very loose and very soft bay bottom soils” under the first-floor commercial units, according to the suit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court. “These soils are completely unsuitable to support the foundation and, as a result, the soils have settled with resulting movement and significant cracking of the walls, stucco and structure.”