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Surfside’s commission meeting Tuesday night saw emotional pleas from the victims and families of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South.
Affected loved ones called for an on-site memorial to honor the 98 lives lost. Many who spoke proposed a memorial by way of a land swap with Surfside’s community center.
If approved, it would mean Surfside trading the community center property to whoever buys the Champlain Towers South site. Then, a new community center and a memorial can be built where Champlain Towers South once stood.
“I lost my brother, and three cousins, and my home on the collapse. And I want to start by stating that the land swap alternative was proposed by the victims’ families, not the developers,” said Annabel Levine, who lost family members in the collapse.
Some families acknowledged the challenges of a land swap, but demanded an on-site memorial by any means.
“My son was a visitor there that night he was 21 years old,” said a mother of a collapse victim. “I’m just begging you to do the right thing. Whether it’s federal funding, I understand that there’s a need, an economic need.”
Not all Surfside residents agree with the land swap proposal, saying the community center belongs where it is today.
“I’m in favor of a memorial. I think it’s only right for the victims and their families. I’m not in favor of a land swap,” said Paul O’Malley, Surfside resident.
Surfside commissioners, and Mayor Charles Burkett, say the land swap is not a viable plan.
Town leaders say they are committed to finding a way to memorialize victims of the collapse, and explore alternatives to the land swap.
“First, I want to say I’m very sorry for all of your loss,” said Nelly Velasquez, Surfside commissioner. “I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for everyone. I agree with my colleagues. Unfortunately, a land swap is not an option. I think there’s other ways we can do this.”