YOU PAID FOR IT: Workers scramble to secure building before storm hits

You Paid For It Investigator Mark Douglas outside the Tempo building.
The Tempo building.
The Tempo building.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Housing Authority (THA) could use a really big blue tarp right about now to protect one of its biggest real estate holdings.

The Housing Authority calls the cluster of high-rises that form the core of the $425 million Encore Development its crown jewels. But the unfinished $26 million Tempo residential building — the latest gem in that collection that You Paid For — is now in harm’s way of water damage from the approaching tropical depression.

Construction crews have spent weeks removing soggy drywall and other trash from the Tempo after summer rains left standing water in the interior. The THA fired the building’s contractor, the Siltek Group, in June after alleging shoddy work. The Tempo has remained surrounded by scaffolding and open to the elements ever since, amid litigation over the project.

“I’m sure there’s been some damage,” THA President Jerome Ryans said. “If you notice when (Siltek) left, they left the place wide open so that’s what’s going on right now.”

Ryans is referring to construction crews that are assessing damage and trying to secure the seven-story tower form further damage. “Once they complete that assessment we’ll know what needs to be done at the Tempo,” he said.

But the approaching tropical weather promises a new challenge and possibly more damage because it is unlikely crews will be able to cover all of the building’s exterior openings prior to the storm’s arrival late Wednesday. “I don’t have any control over the weather, but we’re doing whatever we need to do as a housing authority to protect the building,” Ryans said.

8 On Your Side started reporting on the Tempo’s water intrusion troubles after discovering 10 apartments in the nearby Reed senior citizen residence are leaking more than a year after that building opened.

“I understand there has been no leakage this week and they’re doing whatever is necessary to make sure they stay dry,” Ryans said.

The THA has hired a consultant to assess the water intrusion problem at the Reed, but that report is not yet complete. There have not been any fresh reports of water intrusion at the Reed during the past two weeks, which included occasional rain storms.

The Siltek Group built both the Reed and the Tempo. No one at Siltek, based in Plantation, has returned calls for comment.

Now, with the tropical depression bearing down, it’s not clear how the THA plans to protect the Tempo. The building has windows installed, however, there are also gaping holes in its exterior. “There’s a company already down there now making sure we keep out the water and that kind of thing, Ryans said.

Ryans hosted a bus tour Tuesday around the Encore Development for potential investors even as workers hustled inside the Tempo to protect the investment that taxpayers have already made. The damage so far from prior rains is undetermined.

“We don’t know at this point,” Ryans said. “We don’t know.”

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