The owners of Bayside Marketplace are embroiled in a very ugly legal war with a small group of tenants and ex-tenants that were evicted from the open-air mall in recent months, according to court documents filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
In separate counterclaims and responses to eviction lawsuits filed by Bayside Marketplace LLC, two retailers and two restaurant operators accuse the mall’s ownership of fraud, breach of contract and fraudulent inducement.
“Few, if any, tenants have ever been given the opportunity to expose the hanky-panky that is apparently going on at the mall,” said Jason Giller, the attorney for Miami Waves, a sporting goods retailer that was sued for eviction on May 24. “My clients are not the only ones who have been aggrieved, and indeed, other tenants have lodged similar complaints,” he added.
In December 2014, General Growth Partners sold 49 percent of Bayside’s ground lease agreement with the city of Miami to New York City-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. The land underneath the waterfront shopping center is owned by the city. Ashkenazy took over management of Bayside on Jan. 1 of last year.
Between September 2016 and September of this year, Bayside Marketplace filed eviction lawsuits against 15 tenants, including Miami Waves, according to the Miami-Dade Circuit Court online docket. However, Giller claims Bayside has moved to evict 40 tenants since Ashkenazy took over.
Bayside attorney John Cherneski said his client disputes the allegations raised by Miami Waves and other disgruntled former tenants. “From our perspective, it looks like posturing by some tenants that are trying to avoid their contractual obligations,” Cherneski said. He added that only seven eviction complaints remain pending and that Bayside Marketplace won a final judgment for possession against Miami Waves on Oct. 4.
In its Sept. 5 counter-claim, Miami Waves alleges Bayside Marketplace applied “improper and outrageous” tactics across the board against local and regional tenants in favor of national and international brands. Miami Waves accuses Bayside Marketplace of inducing tenants into entering leases under “knowingly false representations” and making material and costly improvements to their spaces “under broken and avoided promises.”
Another sporting apparel retailer, Sportive II, accuses Bayside Marketplace of trying to make it pay rent on a space that it has not occupied for three years. And Sushi bar Maki’s Place claims it signed a lease for a 671-square-foot space on Oct. 8, 2013, but was not able to open until two years later due to delays and modifications caused by Bayside Marketplace.
“Ultimately, [Bayside Marketplace] only provided 595 square feet, which reduced the restaurant’s seating capacity by 35 percent,” states a March 15 counterclaim filed by Maki’s Place. “The reduction essentially rendered successful operation of the sushi restaurant impossible.”
As a result, Maki’s Place floundered and in November 2016 was forced to vacate the space by Bayside Marketplace, the counterclaim states. In addition, the mall’s management allegedly kept $35,000 in equipment and furnishings purchased by Maki’s Place.
Two food court operators, Cajun Grill and Yeung’s Lotus Express, accused Bayside Marketplace of failing to provide a $100,000 construction allowance, failing to provide a functioning air conditioning system and restrooms, failing to repair 30-year-old tables and chairs and allowing homeless people to panhandle, according to court documents.
Paul Renner, another attorney for Bayside Marketplace, dismissed the counterclaims as garden-variety eviction disputes. “The allegations have not been proven and won’t be proven,” he said.
Last year, Ashkenazy and GGP retained Zyscovich Architects to design a major renovation of Bayside Marketplace. The first phase will cover 140,850 square feet of common outdoor space, including a new paint scheme for the buildings, piers, bulkheads and exposed structures, new flooring for the upper level, new stairs and railings, restrooms, signage, lighting, landscaping and graphics. In the future, the two-level parking garage will be expanded and new retail space will be added along Biscayne Boulevard.