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The Real Deal Miami

Site work renews fight over Watson Island project

Critics of the project say the developer violated a requirement to break ground by May 1
May 07, 2017 10:00AM

From left: Flagstone Property CEO Mehmet Bayraktar and a rendering of Island Gardens

Critics of Island Gardens, a planned complex of hotels and retail stores on Watson Island, say the developer violated a contractual agreement with the City of Miami by failing to break ground for the development by May.

Flagstone Property Group, led by developer Mehmet Bayraktar, obtained a temporary public works permit and arranged for a contractor to dig a hole on Watson Island and to start excavating utility lines in late April.

Flagstone leases land on Watson Island from the City of Miami, has opened a mega-yacht marina there, and has a contract with the city that required the company to start construction of the Island Gardens complex by May 1.

Aldo Bustamente, assistant director of the city’s Department of Real Estate and Asset Management, told the Miami Herald that Flagstone met its contractual obligations by starting the excavation work and applying for a foundation permit.

But Roger Craver, who runs a non-profit organization that opposes Flagstone, says Flagstone failed to start construction of Island Gardens on time and the city should cancel its contract with the company.

City commissioner Frank Carollo, told the Herald that the city appears unwilling to terminate its contract with Flagstone and to find another company to develop Watson Island.

Miami voters approved the idea of building a hotel and mega-yacht marina on Watson Island back in 2001.

Brian May, a lobbyist for Flagstone, said the company has made steady progress on the Watson Island project over the last three years.

May also told the Herald that the project’s biggest delays have stemmed from opposition by Craver’s non-profit group, called Coalition Against Causeway.

Over the last 10 years, members of the coalition have filed lawsuits against the city, challenging the legality of Flagstone’s development plans for Watson Island.

Now Flagstone is suing Craver and another coalition member personally, alleging tortious interference with its development. [Miami Herald] Mike Seemuth