“At the end of the day, this is their job. And if we have complaints, your job is to address the complaints and put us at ease. They haven’t done that,” says Dante Torrent, Resident, Oasis Grand Tower II.
A Fort Myers luxury apartment complex is coming under fire from its own residents and the City is taking notice.
More than a dozen people living at Oasis Grand Tower II reached out to us, claiming the new owners of the complex are running it into the ground, and they’re worried about their safety.
WINK News Investigative Reporter Celine McArthur digs into their complaints and shows you how the owners are responding.
The Oasis Grand Tower II is owned by real estate holding firm Westside Capital Group based out of Miami. On Twitter, Westside’s President & Founder Jakub Hejl says they’re “building cities, investing in communities and shaping the future.” Oasis residents paint a different picture of what’s happening and are worried about their futures, simply for speaking up.
Dante Torrent says it’s luxury living—lost. Since Westside Capital Group took over last summer, this Air Force Veteran says the property’s been neglected inside and out. He gives me a tour of the property to explain.
“You would think trash pickup would not be an anomaly,” says Torrent. “If there’s a fire, you can’t have a stairwell that doesn’t have lights for people to get out of the building.” He adds, “if you walk around the perimeter of this building, there are slip and fall hazards all over the place.”
Torrent also wants to know if this residential tower is structurally sound, especially in the wake of last year’s deadly condo collapse in Surfside.
“What it looks like is, is that the wall is about to collapse,” says Torrent. “What does that do to everyone below the pool deck? What does that do to the entire tower? Who knows? I don’t know.”
He also doesn’t know why the area surrounding that damage isn’t secured.
“That’s not going to stop some child from going beyond the barrier,” says Torrent.
More than a dozen residents asked us to investigate, including a first responder and a licensed architect. Both fear the mounting trash is a serious safety threat.
“A fire hazard. Safety hazard. Health issue. You name it. I mean, it’s garbage,” says Shane Sibert. “So being in public safety, that is a huge concern.”
“I’ve had nights where I’m up till 1 in the morning just thinking, you know, garbage fire is a really bad way to go,” says Architect William Caple. “One of the most basic things you can do is take out the garbage when the trash chutes backed up past 16 floors.”
Like Torrent, both are also worried about Oasis Grand Tower II’s structural integrity.
“The wall outside has bothered me since day one,” says Sibert.
William Caple gave us a picture of broken concrete in the garage, and as an architect, explains why this discovery makes him nervous.
“Something went wrong with either the waterproofing or just pure neglect, that it went through and rusted a part of the steel, to push this chunk of concrete off the structure of the building,” says Caple.
“It’s a concern,” says Former Assistant Property Manager Brian Benning for Oasis Grand Tower II.
Benning resigned last November after he says the new management failed to address resident concerns.
“It just was disheartening, because it was somewhere I was proud to go every day, I was proud to work,” says Benning. “I just didn’t want to be associated with that type of conduct.”
Other residents tell me they fear speaking out. When Torrent posted this letter in the building, encouraging people to speak up if they have issues, management responded with an email to all tenants, saying in part:
“It has come to our attention that a particular individual has been posting unauthorized propaganda through the building… The Fort Myers Police Department has been notified of the incident and there will be an investigation.”
Fort Myers Police tell me, “there is no investigation regarding this specific matter. This is a property management issue.”
Torrent also got a “cease and desist” letter from a lawyer representing the property management company for what they call “defamatory statements about “WS Living” and threatens legal action.
“I think it’s just the wrong way to manage a community,” says Torrent. “What’s wrong with you?”
“They should not be muzzled by this letter that’s been sent because there are no teeth to it,” says Criminal Defense Attorney Lance Dunford.
Dunford—who is not connected to this case—says writing and posting this letter does not constitute criminal behavior.
“Under the First Amendment, you have the freedom of speech to bring out these things, so long as you’re not inciting some type of violence or crime. And they’re not doing that. In fact, they actually gave contact information on the tenant’s letter on who to reach out to and where to post your concerns to try to effectuate some type of change,” says Dunford.
Fort Myers Code Enforcement is aware of the maintenance and safety issues. In November, they found Oasis Grand Tower II in violation of city code for the damaged wall on the 4th floor and for the accumulation of trash and debris.
More than 12 weeks later, code enforcement tells me those issues have not yet been corrected.
I also discovered Fort Myers fire inspectors made an unscheduled stop to inspect Oasis Grand Tower II on Monday, February 7.
“We will not allow residents on our watch, the city Fort Myers, on our watch, allow anyone to live in a building that’s unsafe,” says Fort Myers Fire Chief Tracy McMillion.
Fire Chief Tracy McMillion says they didn’t find any fire-related issues that would spark an evacuation but did detect issues with security lighting and the trash chutes.
“Bedrails… they found large things where the residents have actually put into the structure and now causes blockages within that trash chute or could even possibly damage that trash chute,” says McMillion.
McMillion says those issues are serious enough to warrant follow-up visits every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until they’re resolved.
I was there for the Wednesday follow-up visit.
“Not only are we fire inspectors, we’re also life safety inspectors,” says Fire Inspector Daniel Aberle.
Aberle says it’s clear work is being done on the trash chutes, but as he opens an exterior door, he sees clutter blocking access to a standpipe that supplies firefighting water.
“So, they have not moved this yet,” says Aberle.
He also spots some stairway lights that have not been repaired.
“You can even see where, if you’re skipping one floor, how dark it is,” says Aberle.
I called the on-site property management—using three different numbers—to find out what was going on.
“Thank you for calling, goodbye.”
“The call cannot be completed as dialed.”
“The mailbox is currently full.”
I couldn’t get a person on the line or leave a message, so I called Westside Capital Group in Miami.
They referred me back to the on-site property management.
Celine to Westside Receptionist: “I haven’t been able to reach them and since you own the property… I’d like to talk to someone at Westside.”
She said no, and provided a contact email address.
I asked the Westside receptionist if it would be possible to just talk to someone on the phone, and they said no.
People who call this tower home, say they deserve answers and action.
“This is a customer service business. You’re an owner. You have a business. Without these people, you have no business. So, it has come to this,” says Sibert.
Following our attempts to speak to property management and the owners, they sent an email to residents stating a new property manager is now in place. She started on February 14.
Mercedes Sinfontes says the issues in our report are being addressed, and blames a lack of vendors for some of the problems.
In full disclosure, several WINK News employees reside in Oasis Grand Tower II, but we started this investigation because of complaints from other residents. In the meantime, Oasis II will have to go before the Code Enforcement Board in March to address the issues. The exact date has not yet been set. We will be there.