Evacuated SC Tower Reopened to Tenants


More than four months after evacuating due to structural concerns, residents are now able to return to their condos at Renaissance Tower in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The results of an inspection caused engineers to deem the building “not structurally sound” due to corrosion in steel members under the 22-story building, prompting an evacuation in October of last year.

While Empress Management reportedly could not comment because of pending litigation, a representative told WMBF News that the company is “very happy and pleased to have residents moving back into Renaissance Towers.”

Mandated Evacuation, Lawsuit

As the result of an inspection, at the beginning of October, the Horry County Code Enforcement and a private structural engineer hired by Empress Management announced that the Renaissance Tower was unsafe.

In a formal announcement, the management company shared with residents that deterioration in the structure’s foundation was “substantially worse” in comparison to a previous analysis.

Though not affiliated with the Renaissance Tower, structural engineer Steven Strickland shared with WMBF News that buildings constructed along the coast are typically built with steel foundations that are then covered in layers of concrete.

However, the salty air can cause steel members to corrode beneath the concrete barriers over time.

In an interview, Strickland further shared that after any signs of damage or corrosion are identified—even the smallest signs of deterioration—within a structure, a routine repair process should be put into effect. Strickland expressed that it was important to stay proactive about these types of repairs, even when seemingly minor, to avoid entire closures as witnessed in the case of the Renaissance Tower.

As a result of the evacuation of the 22-story, 322-unit residential high-rise building, residents shared weeks after the mandated order that they were still without homes, with several reportedly living in tents at a nearby campground.

Not long after the mandated evacuation of the Renaissance Tower due to “unsafe” conditions, condo owners filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the building’s board of directors, which includes members of the property's homeowners' association, and Empress Management.

Both alleged parties are commonly referred to in the lawsuit as “Regime.”

In the suit, the residents allege that members of the HOA “knew for years about steadily worsening damage to structural steel components supporting the building, yet failed to undertake further inspections or any repairs and allowed the damage to worsen.”

Additionally, the complaint shares that Renaissance condo owners face a more than $2 million assessment for repairs to the building’s structural steel, as well as an unknown additional assessment for temporary shoring to make the building safe for occupants, and costs for “the expanded scope of repairs needed to address the extremely damaged condition of the steel.”

The suit further alleges that the Regime neglected the issues for the better part of five years. Back in 2016, the structure underwent an inspection where a professional engineer found signs of corrosion. In the report, the engineer shared that steel under the tower “was in bad shape and need to be repaired or replaced.”

While the HOA attempted to bid a repair project in 2018, no work was ever completed at the site. Two years later, in a newsletter issued by the high-rise condo, it was shared that the Board had been delaying repairs to the damaged steel as the result of another project, which involved replacing some of the building’s cooler components and a cooling tower.

The residents point out in their lawsuit that these structural upgrades were “not safety or structural integrity issues and were not worsening such that a delay in their replacement would result in increased repair costs.”

After the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, the Regime requested that an engineer return to the residential complex and outline repair plan options for the Board to vote on. The same engineer that inspected the structure in 2018 returned in 2021 and reported that the Renaissance Tower’s condition had only worsened as no repairs were made since the previous inspection.

With new plans in place for repairs, construction on the foundation began in the months that followed. However, on Oct. 7, construction workers called in the engineer again to evaluate the condition of the foundation.

The call was made after crews who were removing materials from under the building found the steel members to be more corroded and weakened than previously expected.

As a result of the latest inspection, the engineer deemed the building as “not structurally sound,” which, in turn, evoked a mandated evacuation of all residents. Reports indicate that in 2022, tower management reserve funds totaled “less than $1.3 million.”

“Due to the lack of maintenance and repairs and the grossly insufficient reserves held by the Regime, the unit owners are being forced to pay substantial assessments for repairs to the building and the assessments continue to increase given the temporary shoring and expanded steel repairs now necessary at the building,” the suit states.

It is for these reasons and the record of prior conditions, that the residents have filed a lawsuit against tower management for negligence, a breach of fiduciary duties and breached by-laws.

Empress Management and the HOA board have since denied allegations, and representing attorneys have filed to have the lawsuit thrown out. A full copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.

Building Reopening

On Feb. 25, tenants were informed that they could return to the condominium tower after receiving re-entry approval from Horry County. In an email obtained by The Post and Courier, residents were also warned that the tower does not have heating and air conditioning as repairs continue.

The county also reportedly “removed the fall zone restrictions” that had prevented people from entering areas outside the building that might have been hit in the event of the building’s partial or complete collapse.

Records indicate that emergency shoring work began shortly after Thanksgiving and cost $1.3 million. Guidelines for returning tenants included restrictions on entering active construction areas where shoring has been installed to prop-up the support columns.

That afternoon, it was reported that residents began moving back in, with more anticipated to arrive in the coming days. One anonymous condo owner said his unit was “in relatively good condition,” but the hallways in the building smell as if they have been disinfected and have plug-in air fresheners.

Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach previously said they have no plans to inspect other high-rise buildings along the coast for structural failure.


Tagged categories: concrete; Concrete repair; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Corrosion; Corrosion engineering; Engineers; Good Technical Practice; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Rehabilitation/Repair; Residential; Steel repair; Structural steel

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