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Judge Said Surfside Collapse Families Will Receive $150 Million Initially

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) - Thursday marked four weeks since the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South.

Another hearing was held Wednesday as Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman considers the future of the site and compensation for the survivors and victims' families.

Hanzman said the families will get a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially. That includes insurance on the condo building and the expected proceeds from a sale of the property where the structure once stood.

"The court's concern has always been the victims here," the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. "Their rights will be protected."

Hanzman said when it comes to insurance, they have about $50 million available right now. About $2 million has already been paid out to approximately three dozen families.

The judge told the appointed receiver, attorney Michale Goldberg, to figure out the value of each unit in the collapsed building. Whether it's by square footage or fair market value so when funds are available they can go to victims.

Hanzman said time is of the essence because victims and families need money to begin rebuilding their lives.

"This is not a case where we have time to let the grass grow underneath it," he said.

As for the future of the property, opinions are split.

Some of the unit owners were in court, others joined by Zoom, all telling harrowing stories.

Some of those spoke about how they escaped the building that morning with their lives. Others talked about seeing children playing in the pool before the disaster, later witnessing the pancake of the building and realizing the devastating effect it has had on so many lives.

"It's a gravesite," said Raisa Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who escaped with her life, said she is haunted by the memory of a woman screaming for help she couldn't aid in the darkness.

Some of the unit owners want the property to be a memorial site, others want it rebuilt so they can go move back, and some are comfortable with having a hybrid solution.

The judge said there will be an owner's committee to provide input on what will happen to the property.

Oren Cytrynbaum, who lived in the condo and lost two units, was appointed head of the committee.

"All options are being considered. If a memorial makes the most sense, that gets the highest value for the owners and the victims, great. If it's an opportunity where people who want to stay in the building can still stay in the building and have their home back, great. If there's another method that we're not considering, great. The important thing is to really get creative here and to not look at this as just a traditional land sale," he said.

Cytrynbaum said he thinks it could take months, not years, to arrive at a viable solution.

Hanzman also said victims won't be asked to donate their real estate for a future memorial. All victims will get what they are legally owed. He said they lost their homes, belongings, and in some cases their lives, and it won't be sacrificed for the public good.

Surfside is working with their Bal Harbour neighbors to hold a memorial concert this Sunday, July 25 at the 96th Street beach.

Bal Harbour is contributing to the concert through the South Florida Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra is providing additional musicians, a cantor, and a singer for the occasion.

The concert will be from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited.

The names of the victims will be read at the end with a live butterfly release to follow.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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