The Real Deal Miami

Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of SkyRise Miami

Court denies appeal by Miami City Commission candidate Grace Solares

September 15, 2015 05:45PM
By Francisco Alvarado

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Rendering of SkyRise Miami

Rendering of SkyRise Miami

A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in favor of Jeff Berkowitz’s SkyRise Miami project could put an end to the remaining legal challenges trying to stop the 1,000-foot observation tower from breaking ground.

On Tuesday morning, the high court denied community activist and city commission candidate Grace Solares’ request to reconsider a Third District Court of Appeals ruling that that tossed out her lawsuit against the city of Miami. Solares’ suit was filed shortly before voters residing in the city approved SkyRise Miami during the August 2014 primary election.

The complaint alleged that Miami officials violated the city charter by entering into a new long term lease with General Growth Properties — the owners of Bayside Marketplace where SkyRise Miami will be located — without seeking competitive bids.

In May, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled Solares lacked the standing to sue the city and that citizens can’t use the courts to enforce local charters unless they can demonstrate they have a personal stake in the matter.

Linda Carroll, the attorney representing Solares, told The Real Deal that the Supreme Court’s denial is a major setback for citizens who want to protect public waterfront land from private development.

“Obviously we were terribly disappointed by the court’s decision,” Carroll said. “The Third DCA’s ruling has far reaching effects, not just for Miami, but across the state.”

Alan Dimond, a shareholder with the law firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents General Growth Properties, said the high court’s denial bodes well for other lawsuits challenging deals involving city-owned waterfront land, including the lawsuit filed against Miami earlier this year by Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado and billionaire philanthropist Norman Braman.

“We are very pleased the Solares case is over,” Dimond, whose client joined the litigation as an intervenor, told TRD. “We think the decision in the Solares case will have an impact on other cases that are pending.”

Indeed, Regalado and Braman dropped Miami-Dade County as a defendant earlier this month as a result of the appeals court ruling. Regalado and Braman alleged county officials violated the Miami-Dade charter when it allocated $9 million in public funds for SkyRise Miami. Regalado and Braman are still challenging the ballot language the city sent voters.

If built, SkyRise Miami will be the tallest building in Florida and will serve as a theme park attraction with base-jumping and a flight simulator. It will also include a private members club, a restaurant, a ballroom and a nightclub on the top floors. In addition to seeking $270 million in foreign investment funds, Berkowitz is financing the project with $140 million in equity and $50 million from institutional funds.

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