The Real Deal Miami

Privé developers suing city of Aventura for $200M

Construction has been stalled by litigation over sidewalk issue
Privé and its developers from left: Charles Phelan, Gregory Friedman, Gary Cohen (sitting) and Daniel Lebensohn

Privé and its developers from left: Charles Phelan, Gregory Friedman, Gary Cohen (sitting) and Daniel Lebensohn

Developers of Privé at Island Estates, a condo project in Aventura, have filed a $200 million lawsuit against the city of Aventura to ensure construction begins on schedule.

“We had no choice but to go to court to have our development rights enforced— rights which we have had indisputably for 40 years,” developer Gary Cohen said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the kind of action we’re taking is necessary and not uncommon when developing waterfront property in South Florida.”

Daniel Lebensohn of BH3, also a developer for the project, said the city is refusing to stand by its actions and process approvals to begin construction.

“We fully expect the court will enforce those approvals and our rights to build so we can deliver a world-class project that will help increase the city’s tax base and create up to 400 jobs during construction,” Lebensohn said in a statement. “In the meantime, we look forward to putting a shovel in the ground soon and transforming one of the last great pieces of land in South Florida into an island paradise.”

Construction for the 160 unit, 16-story twin tower condo development has been stalled by litigation over an issue with the sidewalks. In a September Miami-Dade County Circuit Court hearing, Cohen said that nearly half of the 77 unit reservations chose not to proceed with their contracts and recovered their deposits because of the litigation with neighbors. Privé is located on Island Estates, a private island in Aventura.

“These homeowners’ petty actions…are only meant to try and stop our project.”
Last year, the city commission passed a resolution to have Cohen build a second sidewalk on the south part of the island if the neighborhood was developed into residential units “other than single family homes,” according to a statement.

“The resolution relates to the South Island only,” Cohen said. “There’s nothing in that resolution that required us to install the second sidewalk as a condition for building on the North Island, nor is there a timeline requirement. It is on its face a South Island detail, but in the interest of being a good neighbor and not delaying construction of Privé, we agreed to do it.”

After Cohen installed the sidewalk last summer in front of 12 homes, the remaining three Island Estates homeowners filed suit to stop construction in front of their homes, claiming the sidewalk would invite trespassers onto their property. A court order temporarily paused the installation and since then, the city has not allowed Privé’s construction to begin.

“We know sidewalks are not the real issue here…,” BH3’s Lebensohn said. “It is clear these homeowners’ petty actions and abuse of the system are only meant to try and stop our project altogether, and the city of Aventura, for whatever reason, is enabling their efforts. This has got to stop and will be stopped.”