City of Miami sues West Grove landlord over poor living conditions

One of the Grand Avenue properties and City Attorney Victoria Mendez
One of the Grand Avenue properties and City Attorney Victoria Mendez

The city of Miami is taking legal action against a Coconut Grove landlord over poor living conditions and code violations at its West Grove properties.

The city wants the owners, Orlando Benitez Jr., Julio Marrero and Rosa Marrero, and Phillip Muskat, to cover the cost of relocating their West Grove tenants to safe apartments they can afford. Under different corporations, the group owns 12 deteriorated properties in Coconut Grove, the Miami New Times reported.

Meanwhile, a buyer offered to acquire the land – but Benitez, the Marrerros and Muskat are in a legal battle over the proposed sale. They own: 3401, 3440, 3535, 3475, 3301, 3395, 3375, 3355, 3441 Grand Avenue; 3410 Hibiscus Street, 3400 and 3412 Florida Avenue.

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In 2013, the Miami Herald reported that Muskat, Marrero and Benitez were going to sell the land to developer Peter Gardner for the Grove Village project, a mixed-use development with a supermarket, retail, homes and apartments. Muskat told the newspaper he was tired of waiting for Gardner, and was looking for a new buyer. At the time, they were asking $30 million for the land.

Earlier this year, Pinnacle Housing Group opened Gibson Plaza, a senior housing and market-rate complex on Grand Avenue. There has been little new development in the West Grove otherwise, although a few a development sites have hit the market.

A resident told the New Times that she and her neighbors were notified to vacate by Aug. 1 with a $400 offer to those who would leave voluntarily – equivalent to their rent. [Miami New Times] – Katherine Kallergis