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Date of Issue: July 23, 2008

Gulffront condominium undergoes rehab

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The north building at 1000 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, is undergoing renovation where plans call for n three ground-floor condominium units and a second-floor penthouse. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

To passersby the Beach House Resort on Gulf Drive North in Bradenton Beach is undergoing a major renovation.

To government officials, the property owners and the contractor, the 10-unit condominium is a minor development.

The “minor” classification is of major importance. The renovation work falls under the so-called “50 percent rule” and thus the project application did not trigger a hearing or review before Bradenton Beach’s planning and zoning board, according to building official Steve Gilbert.

The development has a long history in Bradenton Beach - and a somewhat complicated one.

Passersby see two buildings at 1000 Gulf Drive N. - a south structure and a north structure. In the 1970s, a single-family home located on the beach was moved east, placed on top of three ground-level units in the north building, said building contractor Rick Hager, owner of Goodwood and Stone Builders. Hager’s company is overseeing the renovation.

“The south building was added for condominium purposes,” Gilbert said.

“And essentially the north and south buildings were combined into a condominium a number of years back,” Gilbert continued as he sat in his office with a file on the property about two-inches thick.

Five years ago, the property owners obtained a permit for “cosmetic remodeling and replacement of stairs on the south building. The interior renovations went smoothly. The stairs they had some problems with and changes were made a couple of times,” according to Gilbert.

The improvements at that time consisted primarily of new cabinets in the kitchen, installation of new tile and trim, Gilbert said.

In late 2005, the city’s history on the property indicates, the owners wanted to make the same improvements in the north building.

“Back in 2005 a permit was granted to do interior renovations - kitchen renovations, minor drywall repairs,” Gilbert said.

During the course of the renovation, workers discovered termite damage - extensive damage.

Efforts to identify and repair that damage prompted a complaint to the city that the work exceeded the scope of the permit. A review by then building official Ed McAdam resulted in a finding that the north building was “structurally deficient.”

In June 2006, city hall was approached with new plans for the property.

Hager said tearing down the north structure and building new was an option, but not the preferred option.

“One of the things that was a consideration is that there are few ground-level condominiums for rent on the Gulf for ADA purposes,” Hager said, referring to access under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.  “One of the reasons that the owner wanted to continue with the ground level was access, easily accessible.”

Gilbert said Hager and the property owners approached city hall “to take a good hard look again at what substantial improvement means and see whether we could do this under non-substantial improvement.”

In consultations involving city and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives, Gilbert said it was determined that the north and south building should be considered one condominium development and the total value of the development used in determining whether a renovation project exceeded the 50 percent threshold.

“The 50 percent applies to the value of the building - 50 percent of the real world cost of that building,” Gilbert said. “This doesn’t qualify as a substantial improvement based on FEMA’s rating. There’s no increase in the exterior envelope. Essentially it’s the same front elevation. It’s a significant repair and remodel job.”

The valuation of the condominium was set at about $1.61 million. With the renovation expected to cost about $600,000, the project cost is 12 points under the 50 percent rule at 38 percent of the valuation.

Work began at the site earlier this year.

“We’re rehabbing four units out of the 10,” Hager said. “The termite damage was significant and we have to redo the downstairs pretty much. The upper level, it is going to be approximately 15,000 square feet. The three units downstairs will be one bed and one bath, about 500 square feet each.”

Hager said he expected the project to be completed before the 2008-09 winter vacation season.

“I’ll be ready in the fall,” he said.

When work began with the removal of a roof on the north building, Gilbert began receiving inquiries from people - including city officials - questioning the scope of the project.

“We have two buildings with a soft connection,” Gilbert said, adding that the National Flood Insurance Program covers those two buildings as one “block.”

“That is your trigger,” the building official said.