High Point Place in Fort Myers gets a tile new roof after hurricane

Story By: Melissa Montoya, Fort Myers News-Press|
Video By: Fort Myers News-Press

High above the sky, workers climbed atop the roof of High Point Place.

They looked like Spider-Man as they traipsed along the 29-story tower where roof construction has been ongoing.

While 29 floors may sound like an impressive height, it's only bested in the region by the tower next door which stands at 33 floors, or 35 once you make it to the roof's terrace. In total, there are five towers and four low-rise buildings.

They make up 50,000 square feet of roof that need 57,000 tiles and 230,000 screws to complete the work.

The massive undertaking to replace the roof began in October, more than a year after Hurricane Irma swept through the region in 2017. These are said to be the tallest buildings between Tampa and Miami.

"You know what happened after Irma, it was hard to get anybody to do anything," said Jean Turnbull, a board member of the High Point Place Condominium Association.

Irma left behind destruction and a backlog of damaged infrastructure. A year after the Category 3 storm hit Southwest Florida, thousands of homes still had the blue tarp over their roofs.

Not many of them were as challenging as repairs 300 feet up in the air.

Turnbull, a resident of High Point Place since 2011, has been coordinating the rooftop efforts.

"You see these people crawling around up there," she said. "It's interesting."

Work is expected to cost about $2.8 million, Turnbull said. Irma didn't damage the entire roof, but it did lift enough tiles that required reconstruction on every surface of the towers, including the three-story buildings closer to ground level.

"(Irma) knocked off about 35 percent of the tiles," Turnbull said. "If more than 25 percent are damaged you have to change all of the roofs."

On a recent weekday, workers clipped into harnesses walked across the roof, getting ready to end the day.

Is it scary to work so high off the ground?

"You surpass the fear, eventually," one worker responded in Spanish.

Turnbull said the condominiums received three bids for the work. Ultimately, Crowther Roofing was chosen as well as consultants from Scott Bonk & Associates, a roofing consulting company.

"In a normal construction site, it's a logistical nightmare," Turnbull said, but because of High Point Place's footprint along the Caloosahatchee River near downtown, it became more difficult.

First, a staging site had to be found for construction materials, tucked in behind the archway entrance off of First Street, Turnbull said.

From there, consultants and architects had to figure out how to get the tiles up to the roofs. It was impossible to use a crane, Turnbull said.

So they built a hoist that carries a load of bricks to the top of the towers, Turnbull said.

"A lot of manual labor and a lot of ingenuity went into it," she said.

It took three weeks to do the first roof, but since then work has been moving at a quicker pace, she said.

Ruben Ponce, project manager with Crowther Roofing, said work is expected to go through June. About 20 workers are involved in the project. According to Ponce, Crowther built the original roofing at High Point Place.

The weather has to cooperate in order to move work along, Ponce said.

So far it has, because the rainy season has not arrived, Ponce said, but recent colder days prove problematic because there has been ice on the roof.

"It's frozen in the morning," Ponce said. "You have to wait until the layer of ice is melted and you have to go up and start working."

The most time-consuming part is hoisting the tiles up to the floor. Before that can happen, workers have to bring down the old roof tiles to bring up the new ones, he said. Less than 100 tiles can be moved in the container at a time.

Ponce said he enjoys watching the end result of the project.

"You look all around and you can see Fort Myers and the river. It's beautiful," Ponce said. "In this particular job, you can see it from miles away and I can say that’s a roof I put on."