The Everglades - Forever Gone

The Everglades - Forever Gone

01/23/2005
The Loizeaux Group, LLC

In Charter NDA Member-Controlled Demolition, Inc.’s (CDI’s) half century of experience, we’ve had the opportunity to work on literally hundreds of historically and architecturally fascinating structures. The January 23rd implosion of the Everglades Hotel in downtown Miami, Florida added another structure to that list.

While The Everglades was never recorded as a protected landmark, her history was, indeed, illustrious:

One of the first structural steel framed buildings in Florida, The Everglades was built in 1926 for a mere $3 million. The 23-story hotel was once the city’s largest and most luxurious hotel. Interestingly, the construction was completed just in time to weather the massive hurricane of 1926, which temporarily converted the hotel lobby into an “unplanned swimming pool” of bay water! Many of the displaced citizens of Miami were housed in the hotel during reconstruction and cleanup efforts following the storm.

Another of the many notable points in The Everglades’ lifespan, the hotel was leased by the Navy during WWII and used as living quarters for officers during their training while stationed in Miami. Once returned to civilian use, local station WTVJ placed an antenna atop the hotel’s cupola, using it to make the first television transmissions in Miami. Many historians saw this modern and monstrous addition as “the beginning of her end.”

Further adding to The Everglade’s mystique was the role she played in the downfall of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa. Head of the Teamsters, Hoffa, came to the “rescue” of the financially struggling Everglades’ owners in 1959. Now mortgaged to the hilt, the rueful owners had no choice but to go along with the radical aesthetic and structural modifications Hoffa intended to make to the structure, including a roof-top pool and a nightclub. Historians would now say that this was “the END of her end.” Hoffa was ultimately convicted of taking kickbacks in return for arranging the “financial survival” of the Everglades and other properties. Of course, Hoffa disappeared just shortly after completing his sentence.

Though sad to see the structure go, many locals acknowledged that “she just didn’t look like herself any longer.” After decades of ownership change, renovations and just plain old wear and tear, in 2003, it was determined that the former grande dame of Miami just couldn’t seem to pay the rent on the prime real estate she occupied. It was time for her to take her final bow.

CDI was first contacted by the property owner, CABI Developers, LLC, in February of 2003. Implosion was the preferred method of demolition from the start, however, as the footprint of the structure reached only feet from two (2) neighboring streets to the north and east (including Biscayne Boulevard - Route 1), a thorough site review was needed to ensure that implosion was, indeed, a feasible option.

Following several site visits made by Mark Loizeaux, it was determined that there was enough room to the southwest to incline the 235’ tall structure away from the surrounding thoroughfares and active utilities. CABI opted to contract directly with CDI for their portion of the work.

The preparation of the structure for implosion could have been approached a number of ways. Following in depth discussions with CABI’s selected preparation/debris removal contractor, NDA Member-Omega Contracting, Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida, it was decided that CDI could effectively minimize the amount of linear shaped charge explosives to be used in the structure. By torch-cutting splice plates on selected upper columns/floors, and utilizing approximately 3,000 feet of steel-core cable on alternate upper floors to help “pull” the northern and eastern walls away from the fiber optics cables in NE Third Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard.

Utilizing a total of 137 pounds of linear shaped charges and 50 lbs of dynamite “kicker charges”, CDI worked in only the partial basement to the west, the Lobby Level and 4th floor of the structure. Placed in over 400 locations, the shaped charges were sequentially initiated over a period of 5.4 seconds, working from southwest to northeast through the structure. Following the seemingly endless 2.6 second natural pause in the non-electric initiation system, the structural charges detonated on cue, allowing the southwest wing of the structure to fail first, creating the desired lateral “pull” on the north and east curtain walls.

It’s demise complete in under 20 seconds, the implosion of The Everglades was absolutely on target, making way for CABI’s new, luxury condominium, Everglades on the Bay.

CABI graciously extended an invitation to the City of Miami to utilize the site for training drills immediately following the implosion. Coordinating closely with Omega and CDI, members of the City of Miami Fire Rescue, Technical Rescue and HazMat teams, the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue Team, and the City of Miami Police Department conducted training exercises in the building rubble, which simulated conditions similar to those after the World Trade Center attacks. Test-dummies were placed around the site, and search dogs were used to locate and rescue them. A private production team was on-hand to document both the implosion and training exercises for possible future release on one of the major cable channels.

More than 200 VIP guests gathered at the Bayfront Park Amphitheater viewing area early Sunday morning to bear witness to the monumental implosion and subsequent emergency services training drills.