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Hallways Project


E-mail Address: 1regencytower@gmail.com

That's Right! It has finally arrived!

Hallways Project Index

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Project Overview

Our neighbor and fellow owner, Liz Urbano, has worked on this project for many months while receiving input from numerous owners. While satisfying the individual design tastes of 203 strong-minded owners is virtually impossible, Liz has succeeded in creating a design theme that we feel will beautify our hallways and enhance the market value of our home.

It includes a remodeled elevator lobby with porcelain tile, new ceiling, light fixtures, molding, crown, wall texturing, baseboards throughout, furniture, and very plush carpeting in the hallways. Two representatives selected by each floor may accompany Liz to purchase the accessories for the Elevator Lobby (pictures, lamp, statues, dish, silk flowers, etc.)

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Here’s the Deal!!!

To afford our owners an unprecedented wealth of choice, Liz has made available a variety of options for every major piece of furniture. She negotiated a selection of eight different chairs, four different tables and two different light fixtures! This extensive variety guarantees each floor a unique configuration should the unit owners so choose! Drawing on her substantial design skills, Liz professionally coordinated the 64 different hallway variations, thereby retaining a building-wide coherent theme.

Elevator Lobby - West Wall

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Elevator Lobby - South Wall

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Elevator Lobby - East Wall

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Click on any of the graphics below to get a LARGER view!

Hallway Console Table Louis Leather Armchair
Beautiful Bronze
Iron and Wood
One of FOUR Tables
Top Grain Leather
Handcrafted Wood
Fluted Legs with Carved Florrettes
One of EIGHT Chairs
Atlas Commercial Carpet Choice of Fixtures
Interloop Antron Legacy Nylon
Custom Loomed 13' 6"
to avoid any seam
Carved Texture
Hall Lamp
One of Two
Hall Lamp
One of Two

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More on the Way!

As we receive additional graphics of the other chairs, tables, porcelain tile, crown molding, wall covering, fixtures, etc. - they will be posted as well!


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Hallways Project

Report by Eric Berkowitz

Comparative Aspects Review

Last week I received dozens of calls and emails from neighbors pertaining to the Hallways Project. As expected, they ranged in content from those that loved the distributed design to those whose design tastes alternatively run from deco, contemporary, Scandinavian, Japanese, eclectic, “less is more”, French Provincial, Gothic and one extolling the virtue and purity of “70s punk”. While the vast majority of correspondences expressed gratitude that the hallways were finally being addressed, several questioned the methodologies used during the project’s implementation. These queries focused primarily on two issues, money and choice.

Ad Wilson from Unit 909
Adelina "Ad" Wilson
Last Tuesday, I also received a request from
Ad Wilson to discuss her concerns about the project. As many of you are doubtless aware, Ad is a well-credentialed respected design professional. Upon arriving at her apartment, I was surprised and delighted to see Jean Veitch there as well. Jean asked if the project cost was reasonable. Although she expressed concern over one of the project’s line items, Ad opined that the overall price was appropriate. Upon inquiring about the project’s history, they were pleased to learn that it was much more extensive and well-researched than they were given to believe. I explained that I have nothing to do with any decorating, landscaping or beautification efforts. Since my aesthetic preferences are clearly shared by a small minority of my neighbors, I am also resigned to never seeing my design tastes in any common area. Ad replied that no project will ever suit everyone’s individual taste. Instead, her concerns were about whether the project was properly pursued and how the costs compared to those of other neighborhood hallways renovations. I agreed to investigate whether the project costs, methodology and/or results were in any way unusual or inconsistent with other hallways projects implemented in the Galt Mile neighborhood.

To that end, I contacted several Associations along the Galt Mile that either recently underwent a hallways renovation, were currently in the midst of one or had performed one several years ago. Taking Ad Wilson’s advice, I attempted to elicit a balanced overview by contacting a cross section of Associations. I omitted L’Hermitage and L’Ambiance because their input would inordinately skew the results. Since Association docs contain unique coefficients for every individual unit that mandate how common expenses must be assessed to the unit owner, the only viable standards useful for comparing assessed expenses among Associations are the average or median per unit and/or per floor costs.

Galt Mile Average Per Unit Cost Study

Fountainhead Palatial Two-Story Lobby
Fountainhead Palatial 2-Story Lobby
As conceived, The Regency Tower hallways renovation is projected to cost $413,514. By dividing that over the 192 participating owners (excluding the recently completed 4th floor), the average per unit cost is $2153.72. With the exception of the 5 unit 1st floor, the average per floor cost is $23,690.91. Carl Ellis, manager of the high-end 17-story Fountainhead Condominium, explained that renovating their 15 residential floors cost just over $550,000 for their 126 unit owners.
Coral Ridge Towers Elevator Lobby Storyboard
Coral Ridge Towers Hallways Design
Their average per floor price is $36,666 and the average cost to each of the 7 to 8 unit owners on each floor was $4880 after adding design and contingency fees.

Coral Ridge Towers, a 16-story co-op considered by some to be the most modest housing on the Galt Mile, is also currently renovating their hallways. Rich Decker told me that their $610,000 estimate didn’t include accessories or a separate contingency fund. Since the $40,666 average per floor price is spread over their 329 unit owners, the average per unit expense is $1848 plus $185 for contingencies – amounting to $2033 (excluding the design fee). He pointed out that since Coral Ridge Towers is comprised of 800 sq ft one bedroom units, 1200 sq ft two bedroom units and 1400 sq ft three bedroom units, each floor accommodates 22 of these relatively small apartments – helping to better “spread the pain.”

Playa del Mar Manager Keith Tannenbaum
Playa Manager
Keith Tannenbaum
Playa del Mar Storyboards
Playa del Mar Common Areas Storyboards
Playa del Mar manager Keith Tannenbaum faxed me their Decorating Proposal Estimates. The Hallways decoration component of their overall decorating estimates totals $1,221,800 to date. It excludes any design fees, contingency funds and accessories. Since the 29-story Playa del Mar central tower rises thirteen floors above the 16-story main building, average per floor comparisons are irrelevant. Their as yet incomplete average per unit price, however, is $3302 as apportioned over Playa’s 370 unit owners. Keith projected that the final average per unit cost will exceed $3900.

The Galt Ocean Club, a building closer in size and scope to Regency Tower, last upgraded their hallways in 1999. Board President Pio Ieraci said that the cost was about $450,000 for the chair rails, crown molding, residential entry door molding, copper wire and lighting fixtures, ceiling, carpeting, tiles, elevator lobby signage, design fees, and the construction.
Galt Ocean Club from Regency Tower Beach
Galt Ocean Club from Regency Tower Beach
Furniture, however, was not included in the price. When I explained to Pio that I was investigating whether the estimate we received was reasonable, he admonished that his seven-year old price would easily exceed $550,000 today. He explained that since furniture wasn’t included in their project, the cost primarily represented labor and materials. He pointed out that the cost for the copper wiring used on each floor rose 140% from 2001 to 2005, and would by itself add $40,000 to the project if done today. While material costs have skyrocketed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measured 3% to 4% annual labor cost increases over the same period. By adding the lowest of these inflationary variables, 3% compounded annually for seven years or 23%, the $450,000 grows to over $553,000. The average per unit cost when conservatively adjusted for inflation is actually $2572. The comparable average per floor cost is $36,866.

Coral Ridge Towers South Hallway
Coral Ridge Towers South Hallway
Ralph Hamaker of Coral Ridge Towers South, another 1960s HUD co-op near the Intracoastal, described their one year old project as a fiasco. So far, they spent in excess of $600,000 and are facing redoing some of the components again next year. Evidently, they appointed a committee that decided to decorate the building “free of professional input.” By way of example, Ralph imparted that they applied some very expensive textured paint without having first prepared the wall surface. When they tried to clean the hallways once the paint dried, they discovered that the entire wall surface moves. Ralph estimated their average per unit cost at $2200 but expected that to increase as they attempt to undo some of their committee’s handiwork. Ralph is guardedly optimistic that a sealer application may encourage their animated walls to “stop dancing”.

Several other Associations either refused to release “confidential financial data” or referred me to someone currently unavailable. I’m still waiting to hear from Royal Ambassador, Galt Towers and Commodore. Since there is such a wide range of variation in the number of units per floor in the different buildings – from 7 in Fountainhead to 22 in Coral Ridge Towers – it renders “floor to floor” comparisons somewhat meaningless. However, the average per unit cost is a viable applicable standard.

To summarize how our average per unit cost compares to the 5 Associations that responded within the week, the Fountainhead was clearly the most expensive at $4880 followed by Playa del Mar at $3900, Galt Ocean Club at $2572 (adjusted for inflation), Coral Ridge Towers South at $2200 (and counting), us at $2153 and the least expensive per unit average cost was Coral Ridge Towers at $2033. The Playa number omits design and contingency fees and the Galt Ocean Club’s $2572 per unit average cost omits furniture and ignores material cost increases over a seven year period. This data clearly refutes seemingly groundless assertions intimating that we were being excessively assessed as compared to our Galt Mile neighbors. In reality, we join Coral Ridge Towers at the very bottom of the Galt Mile cost spectrum for hallways renovation.

Cost and Choice – Caveat Emptor!

The second issue I was asked to review centered on how the methodology used either increased or decreased the amount of choice we are being afforded. Last week, one of my neighbors insisted that we would have had a wider choice by giving three designers carte blanche to develop three design schemes that could be voted upon by the membership. Essentially, the winner would get the job and the standard 10% commission while the losers would be asked to “take a hike.”

Of all the Associations I spoke with, only one adopted a similar strategy. Upon speaking to a design professional at a C.A.I. convention last year, I learned that these unstructured “designer competitions” usually result in higher costs and less choice. Unlike most construction disciplines, interior designers do not prepare design schemes and cost them out in return for the chance to be selected as “the winning bidder”. Unless baited with a monumentally lucrative contract, no designer will spend the hundreds of hours necessary to research and compose a design scheme, interview dozens of vendors, contractors, installers and suppliers and prepare a comprehensive presentation without being guaranteed compensation. To implement the “designer competition” strategy, the two losers must be guaranteed between $10,000 and $15,000 each before they will agree to the competition’s terms. The winner receives 10% of the job cost. When I asked Ad Wilson whether these parameters were applicable primarily to South Florida, she confirmed that they were, in fact, industry-wide standards.

For example, the cost of a $500,000 job would be increased by $70,000 to $80,000 in design fees. The bid winner would receive a $50,000 (10%) commission and the two losers would be paid $10,000 to $15,000 apiece. Ironically, in exchange for this substantial premium, this strategy consequently limits the membership’s choices.

By definition, a successful decorator is able to determine what a client wants. Every competent Designer bidding the job will first ascertain which design style will appeal to the majority of the voting members. Each has access to the same resources. They will check the building lobby and lobbies in the neighboring buildings. They will question unit owners, Association officials, employees and/or anyone with feedback about the unit interiors. They will conclude that while some owners favor contemporary design, some prefer deco and a few are eclectically inclined, it is not in their best fiscal interests to experiment. To win, they must present some variation of the mostly traditional conservative furnishings that appeal to the voting majority. As a result, all the bidders present strikingly similar design packages. After all, their primary objective is to win the competition and take home the cash bonanza, not pioneer new vistas in their chosen field or crack the cover of Architectural Digest.

In conformity with competition terms, each designer assembles a floor tile, carpeting, a chair, a table, wall covering, a wall fixture and other design elements. They present their ideas through pictures, storyboards or representative setups – depending primarily on the amount of money made available for that purpose by the Association. Through a vote, the membership selects the preferred design scheme and the winning bidder. They cannot mix and match. They aren’t given the opportunity to choose Designer A’s table with Designer C’s carpeting. They get package A, package B or package C – period! It is usually at this point that the limitations of this strategy become evident. Of course, the Association can alter the terms and require several designs by each participant. Whether they include these additional wrinkles or simply add more competitors, they will have to pay for every scrap of unselected work product in addition to the 10% winner’s fee. Since most Associations agree that paying more money for less choice is not a worthwhile endeavor, they rejected this “designer competition” strategy.

Playa del Mar appointed a decorating committee to interview designers and select one. The chosen designer, Paula Greenberg Interiors, Inc., composed a basic design scheme with several optional variations. After meeting with two designers, the Galt Ocean Club Board hired Retro Interiors to renovate their hallways. The Fountainhead Board hired Interiors by Stephen G to redecorate their common areas. Coral Ridge Towers South appointed a committee that decided to try their hand at interior design and failed miserably. By way of comparison, the methodology used by Liz Urbano to provide adequate choice to Regency Tower residents offers 64 different hallway variations while still retaining a building-wide coherent theme. This wealth of selection guarantees the unit owners on every floor the opportunity to be unique should they so choose. The 64 options Liz made available to every individual floor is clearly preferable to, and substantially less expensive than, the 3 “all or nothing” options adherent to the “designer competition” strategy.

Professional Design Input

Regency Tower Lobby - Alan Derry
Regency Tower Lobby - Alan Derry
As previously stated, Ad Wilson and Jean Veitch expressed that some of their neighbors were distressed by a misconception about the project’s history and scope. Ad stated that she had been mistakenly led to believe that only one designer was consulted. In fact, input from three designers was solicited prior to arriving at the final result. In February of 2005, former Regency Tower resident Alan Derry presented a design overview for the hallways that he started developing in November of 2004. Ad Wilson confirmed that Mr. Derry was instrumental in decorating the Regency Tower lobby a decade earlier. Nevertheless, the Board felt that we should solicit additional design ideas prior to making a decision. As such, Liz Urbano was asked to spearhead a hallways decorating effort. As many of you are aware, Liz is a talented design professional with a history of donating those talents to a wide variety of Association projects. Her handiwork is featured in the Regency Tower Newsletter and the many intriguing holiday conversions that our home undergoes every year. After meeting with several decorators, she agreed to work with Scott Smith of J.S.D Interiors Inc. Liz invested untold hours with Mr. Smith to create an attractive design theme for the hallways. After working with his firm for the better part of a year, Liz encountered an unexpected obstacle.

From the outset of their relationship, Liz made it clear to Mr. Smith that their objectives had to be achieved within certain budgetary constraints. After promising for months to work within those fiscal parameters, Mr. Smith presented her with an estimate that was significantly higher than the guidelines he and Liz had agreed to. Disappointed at J.S.D.’s failure to adhere to their understanding, Liz opted to start over rather than present a plan she considered too expensive.

The ten-year hallways renovation deadline was around the corner. She had promised scores of anxious residents that the mostly dilapidated hallways would soon be an asset instead of an embarrassing liability. Rather than gamble on another decorator stepping into J.S.D.’s shoes and retracing the past year’s efforts, she volunteered to personally perform Mr. Smith’s vacated responsibilities. She agreed to accept what amounts to a pittance for redeveloping the project from scratch. Adding the experience of the prior two years to her already formidable design skills, she composed a new design concept for the hallways. Instead of relying on someone else to fight for the “right materials at the right price,” she met with contractors, installers and suppliers to ensure that her vision met her fiscal objective – to keep the project affordable. True to this commitment, she persisted in soliciting competitive bids until she had whittled 30% off the previously lowest estimate. By accepting 2% instead of the standard 10% design fee, she shaved another 8% or $30,888 from the bottom line.

All told, Liz single-handedly plunged the Regency Tower hallways per unit average cost, taking it from the “average” category as compared to other Galt Mile hallways projects and recasting it as one of the least expensive on the block. What is most remarkable about her effort is that she accomplished this without sacrificing material quality, design integrity or choice. Irrespective of anyone’s subjective opinion about the final design aesthetics, every Regency Tower owner owes Liz Urbano a debt of gratitude for delivering an unquestionably professional, high-quality design at a cost verifiably among the Galt Mile’s lowest. Additionally, the abundance of variants negotiated by Liz allows each floor individual expression while aesthetically coordinating the entire building.

This brings to mind one complaint made repeatedly by Ad Wilson during our impromptu meeting. While she is keenly concerned about having to manage another difficult assessment (as are we all), she said that it was unfair to realize any savings at Liz’ expense. I clearly understood Ad to be speaking against her own best interests when she recommended that we consider increasing Liz’ design fee.


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