villa-francine_condo_web.jpgOPA-LOCKA – A condo project abandoned five years ago before  construction was completed was the training site for a three-day exercise for a U.S. Army unit.

When the Dec. 3-5 exercise was over, Villa Francine Condominiums was razed and debris hauled away, courtesy of the U.S. Army’s 766th Engineer Command.

The cost to the city to get rid of the structures at the northwest corner of 27th Avenue and 132nd Street was just the price of fuel and the tipping fee.

In all, the city paid close to $2,000 for a job that would have cost $14,000.

The 766th Engineer Company is a unit of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 841st Engineer Battalion based in Miami. Its training includes simulating urban environments while working with local governments.

“One of the benefits for the soldiers is the hands-on functional experience it gives them to work and provide services under someone else’s rules and territory, especially dealing with non-military entities,” Company Commander 1st Lt. Thomas Nettles said in a statement released by the city of Opa-locka.

The statement issued after the demolition said four incomplete Villa Francine buildings were demolished during the exercise. Two of them had been left incomplete with foundation slabs and no columns or beams when construction halted five years ago; the other two were two-story buildings.

The structures had deteriorated from exposure to the weather because roofs had not been built. Decks had collapsed and there was water damage.

The city said the structures had been deemed unsafe and hazardous by the Miami-Dade County Unsafe Structure Board and residents living nearby had complained they were a haven for vagrants and illegal activity and overgrown vegetation created an eyesore.

The city contacted the 841st Engineer Battalion earlier this year regarding its training schedule and arranged for the buildings to be torn down, the statement said.

The 766th Engineer Command used two hydraulic excavators, one D7 bulldozer and six 20-ton dump trucks for the project. After the demolition, the debris was taken to the dump.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF OPA-LOCKA. CLEARING OUT AN EYESORE: Soldiers in the U.S. Army 766th Engineer Company use heavy equipment to demolish structures in Opa-locka intended for a condominium complex but abandoned five years ago.