By Kirk Petersen
The Bishop of the Diocese of Southeast Florida has told the residents of a currently uninhabitable apartment building in West Palm Beach that work is actively continuing to enable the residents to return to their homes, which they had to evacuate after a June 14 electrical fire.
In a letter dated August 12, the Rt. Rev. Peter Eaton, “writing in my capacity as President of the Board” of the 182-unit St. Andrews Residence, said that although power has been restored, “the building was without power for two and a half weeks and air quality tests are currently being conducted” in the common areas and each apartment. The letter is attached at the bottom of this article.
“We anticipate that these tests will be completed by August 20,” he said, and hotel accommodations and daily meals will continue to be provided to residents through August 21.
The letter came after residents complained to the Palm Beach Post that they were not being kept informed by the diocese. “Adding insult to injury has been the silence of the Episcopal diocese. Some residents said they reached out to Bishop Peter Eaton and received no response,” the Post reported August 5.
TLC‘s inquiry to the bishop’s office was referred to Aimee Adler Cooke of Conceptual Communications, a South Florida public relations firm. She provided the Bishop’s August 12 letter, as well as written answers to written questions submitted by TLC.
Asked to clarify the precise ownership of the apartment building, she wrote:
St. Andrews Residence of the Diocese of Southeast Florida Inc. is a nonprofit corporation that was created by the diocese. The nonprofit provides low income housing to the elderly (ppl over age 62) under section 202 of the National Housing Act as regulated and amended by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The diocese appoints the nonprofit’s board members. Bishop Eaton serves as the President of the Board.
St. Andrews Residence of the Diocese of Southeast Florida purchased the building in 2009, during the housing crisis and Great Recession, for $3.3 million, according to Palm Beach County Appraiser office. The county records indicate the building has a 2019 appraised market value of $16.5 million.
The finances of the diocese and the St. Andrews Residence nonprofit corporation are completely separate. In fact, the separation between the two entities is so complete that there is no mention of St. Andrews Residence anywhere on the extensive diocesan website, A search of the site for “Andrew” returns a handful of links, none of which refer to the apartments.
While the hotel and meal accommodations have been extended to August 21, there seems little chance that the building will be habitable by then. The bishop’s letter did not mention mold, but residents have complained about mold problems for years, according to the Post, and that could explain the need for air quality testing. Two and a half weeks without power or occupancy in South Florida humidity would have provided ideal conditions for any existing mold to flourish.
Excessive mold causes respiratory and other health problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mold remediation can be a lengthy and expensive process, involving such things as ripping out and replacing moldy drywall, and cleaning or discarding furniture or other possessions affected by mold.
“Please know that your safety remains our top priority,” the bishop said in his letter. “Many professionals and contractors have been engaged and are acting to expedite and complete safely the work that needs to be done.” He pledged to update the residents weekly by letter, with the next letter to come on August 19.
The Diocese of Southeast Florida is one of dozens of dioceses, churches and organizations that support The Living Church financially.