The Real Deal New York

Abyssinian sued over potential $28M Harlem complex sale

Affordable developer Carthage accusing Butts' firm of violating LOI
By Ariel Stulberg | March 18, 2016 04:10PM

The Francis Ennis Houses at 2070 Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem (Inset from left: Carthage's Edward Poteat and Rev. Calvin Butts)

The Francis Ennis Houses at 2070 Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem (Inset from left: Carthage’s Edward Poteat and Rev. Calvin Butts)

Rev. Calvin Butts’ Abyssinian Development Corporation has found a buyer for the vacant, dilapidated Ennis Francis Houses project in Central Harlem, but negotiations have hit a snag.

Carthage Real Estate Advisors, also based in Harlem, signed a letter of intent with the company – the real estate arm of the nearby Abyssinian Baptist Church – back in September, agreeing to pay $27.8 million for the 147,000-square-foot rental complex, located at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Carthage aims to demolish the existing structure and build a 332-unit, 300,000-square-foot property with both condominiums and affordable rentals. The affordable housing developer is planning 69 condo units and 263 rental units total. Of the rentals, 86 will be market-rate units, with the rest affordable at various income levels. The project is slated to cost $124 million, which includes the cost of acquiring the property.

At the moment, Carthage is suing Abyssinian, accusing Butts’ firm of “attempt[ing] to impose additional and more restrictive conditions to the contract of sale,” according to the complaint. Abyssinian demanded an increase in the agreed-upon down payment installments, and failed to secure approvals for Carthage’s proposed redevelopment plan from the city, thus placing the burden to do so on Carthage, the suit states.

Back in 2014, a fire broke out at the building — infamous for its mold, bugs and lack of heat. Abyssinian has since relocated the building’s former residents.

Carthage declined to comment, while Abyssinian didn’t immediately respond to a request.