By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
An Ocean City condominium complex that remains shut down after being declared unsafe in April has a history of structural problems dating back more than 40 years and should be demolished, according to a newly released engineering report.
Structural defects and deteriorating conditions are so significant at the Seaspray condominiums that they present a safety hazard to both the condo residents and the general public, the report by Endicott Engineering concludes.
“As a result, it is my professional opinion that the common areas and buildings of the Seaspray Condominium Complex are unfit for continuing use and occupancy and should be demolished. The only reasonable course of action is a complete and total rebuild of the entire structure and complex,” engineer Charles Endicott wrote in his April 17 report.
The state Department of Community Affairs ordered the city to close down the complex in late April after the condos were declared to be structurally unsafe. The 32-unit complex has been a fixture at the corner of 34th Street and Bay Avenue since the 1960s and was converted from the Seaspray Motel into condos in 1980.
The Endicott report notes that structural problems were found as far back as 1980 by another engineering company that inspected the Seaspray complex at that time. Those problems were “sufficient enough for the developer at the time to have considered demolishing the buildings,” Endicott added.
“Historically, routine maintenance of the structures and surrounding grounds appears to have been non-existent. This has led to the accelerated deterioration of the concrete and steel in essential structural elements of the foundation and building superstructure. Essentially, the structure has aged poorly, and the overall condition of the structure is worse than similarly aged structures that have been properly maintained,” the report states.
Among the defects found by Endicott in each of the buildings were numerous cracks, extensive settling of the foundation, advanced deterioration of the load-bearing beams and structural slabs and shifting of the bearing walls.
“There are numerous cracks on the surfaces of the existing precast hollow core concrete slabs. These cracks have never been sealed, resulting in the infiltration of water through the surface concrete and the corrosion of the steel rebar. The corroding rebar has expanded in size, resulting in additional cracking of the beams, which has further reduced the load bearing capacity of these elements,” the report found.
Altogether, six engineering studies have been done on the Seaspray complex since 2000, each determining that the buildings were structurally unsound, according to a related lawsuit filed by Dennis E. Block, an owner of one of the condo units.
Block, a New Jersey attorney, and his company, Block Properties LLC, sued the Seaspray’s managing board and condo association in 2022, claiming that they knew about the structural problems and did not take steps to repair them.
It was not immediately clear whether Block hired Endicott Engineering to inspect the condo complex for possible structural flaws. Charles Endicott sent his report to Block and Neil Byrne, Ocean City’s construction official.
Neither Block nor Endicott could be reached for comment Thursday. Members of the Seaspray’s managing board and condo association also could not be reached for comment.
In his suit, Block is asking the court to appoint a receiver or trustee to take charge of the Seaspray condos until their fate is ultimately decided. Block wants the buildings demolished and the site sold to a developer, asserting that the Seaspray’s value is the property.
According to the suit, the estimated repair cost for the condo complex exceeds $9 million, but the managing board and condo association don’t have the money. The suit says that a minimum special assessment of $150,000 would be needed on each of the Seaspray’s condo units for repair costs.
In the meantime, the Seaspray remains closed by order of the state Department of Community Affairs, or DCA. Red tags have been placed throughout the Seaspray complex, noting, “This building is declared unsafe for human occupancy. No individual is to occupy this building until the structure is rendered safe and secure.”
The Seaspray’s closure was first publicly disclosed during the April 27 meeting of City Council. City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson told Council at the meeting that the Seaspray’s condo association may possibly appeal the shutdown to the DCA or pursue other options.
“They have a 15-day right of appeal. The condominium association could decide to make repairs. They could challenge the decision of the DCA. They could decide as a group that they’re going to tear down the building. We don’t know what they’ll do, but they will act as an association,” McCrosson said.
McCrosson also told Council that she was limited in what she could say about the condos because the city has been named as a defendant in the litigation overshadowing the Seaspray.
Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr, whose district includes the Seaspray complex, said his and the city’s most pressing concern at this time is helping the condo residents who have been displaced by the shutdown.
“We’re still going through a process of finding people who need it, a place to go,” Barr said in an interview Thursday.
Assisting the Seaspray residents in finding new housing are the city’s Office of Emergency Management and OCNJ CARE, a nonprofit organization that provides help in the community after disasters.
Barr said he, Congressman Jeff Van Drew’s office and Ocean City’s realtors have also been trying to help out the Seaspray residents.
“My main concern is the welfare of all of the people who live there,” Barr said.