Burned Bath and Tennis Club condo getting stripped and rebuilt, not torn down

Signs indicate rehabilitation work in progress at a multi-family residential structure at 1840 to 1860 Bald Eagle Drive in the Naples Bath and Tennis Club neighborhood on Friday, June 22, 2012, in Naples. Residents of the building were displaced May 12 when it was gutted by fire and now workers are rehabilitating the structure.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

Signs indicate rehabilitation work in progress at a multi-family residential structure at 1840 to 1860 Bald Eagle Drive in the Naples Bath and Tennis Club neighborhood on Friday, June 22, 2012, in Naples. Residents of the building were displaced May 12 when it was gutted by fire and now workers are rehabilitating the structure.

— Charred stumps jutting into the open air are all that remains of the mansard roof.

It's more than a month after fire destroyed the top floor of the nine-unit Naples Bath and Tennis Club condo building in the 1800 block of Bald Eagle Drive. Demolition crews are a daily presence, tearing melted and scorched parts out of the three-story structure, which has been uninhabitable since May 12.

But the whole building isn't coming down, according to condo owners and a general contractor hired to clean up the property.

"The integrity of the building, the structure, wasn't compromised to where it needed to be brought down to that degree," said Jesse Beougher, project manager for Fireservice Disaster Kleenup. "It's a totally rebuildable building."

Beougher said the company is tasked with whittling the condos down to a skeleton structure – the slab concrete floor and walls, originally built in the 1970s – and restoring the building close to its original style.

Seasonal resident Julia Hiotas left her Bald Eagle condo to go north in late April.

The investigation with the state fire marshal as to cause and origin of the fire, which displaced several owners and renters, remains open.

The condos are valued at $113,000 to $116,000.

The first condo to burn was the top unit in the building's southern tower, owned by James Elsman Jr. and his wife. The couple was at their home in Michigan when they got word that fire destroyed the condo they'd owned since 1985.

Clothes, a few guns, nearly 30 years of snowbird living.

"Not a thing" was left, he said.

The Elsmans are unsure if they will hang on to the rebuilt condo, and in part may base their decision on what happens with the clubhouse and tennis facility, the future of which has been up in the air since 2010.

Tennis school Academia Sánchez-Casal operated at the Naples Bath and Tennis Club for three years, but stopped in 2010, and "since then we have been trying to buy the facilities," said Arantxa Gallastegui, general manager of the school's Florida division.

Gallastegui said the Academia is "in the process of buying it."

After the fire consumed the Elsman condo, it spread to the adjacent one, which Julia Hiotas and her husband purchased in 1980 after selling their business. The couple lived in Naples seasonally.

"We had a lot of fun. We went to North Carolina and picked out the furniture," Hiotas said.

A widow since her husband died in 2010, Hiotas still spent the winter on Bald Eagle Drive but headed back north the last week of April this year.

Two weeks later, the phone rang at her Indiana home. It was the management company, C. Allen Properties.

"That's when they called and said it was all gone," Hiotas said.

The company's owner, Chip Allen, declined to provide comment for this story.

Hiotas' condo was the second on the floor to catch fire, as the flames visibly spread from the 1860 tower at the south end of the building, through the cockloft to the two other third-floor units. None of the condos on the first and second floors caught fire.

Most of Hiotas' personal belongings had traveled back north with her. All that was salvaged from the rubble was a few sterling silver serving pieces.

Like the Elsmans, Hiotas also was unsure of what to do with the condo after the fire.

"When it happened, I told my girls, 'I'm not going to stay,'" Hiotas said.

She couldn't stay in South Bend in the winter, her daughters countered. And Hiotas acquiesced.

"It'll take a while to get back to normal," she said, "but I'll make it."

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 1

mona1000 writes:

Since FireServices is doing the work, you can rest assured it will be done correctly. They are the best!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features