Brickell House condo owners reach $32M settlement over failed robotic parking

Harvey Hernandez-developed property scene of battle over botched technology
By Keith Larsen | March 25, 2019 06:33PM

Brickell House and Harvey Hernandez

When Brickell House opened in 2014, condo owners thought they were buying into an ultra-modern luxury tower with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and a new state-of-the-art robotic car elevator that would bring them their cars within 10 minutes.

Shortly after closing on their units, however, buyers realized the dream of hassle-free smart parking wasn’t to be: The technology flopped, the elevator’s manufacturer Boomerang Systems filed for bankruptcy and unit owners had to resort to parking their cars at a nearby garage.

Almost four years later, the Brickell House Condominium Association reached a $32 million settlement with the elevator’s insurer, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. The settlement, which appears to be one of the largest of its kind, is nearly half the $61 million policy the association took out to cover the elevator’s technology.

The confidential settlement was reached in October and appeared as a small footnote in a motion filed by executives with Boomerang Systems in November. Representatives for Hartford Steam declined to comment.

Still, litigation continues, though the settlement likely brought some relief for condo owners at the 374-unit tower at 1300 Brickell Bay Drive who have had to park at a nearby building’s garage. The association claims owners have lost an average of $70,000 in value per unit due to the parking garage’s malfunctions, according to the complaint.

Attorneys for the developer, Harvey Hernandez’s Newgard Development Group, did not immediately return a request for comment. Hernandez also did not return a request for comment, nor did the condo association.

The association is now seeking to collect more money from the developer, alleging that Newgard was negligent and knew that the Boomerang technology was not working properly. Attorneys for the developer denied the allegations in a motion.

The 46-story Brickell House was one of the first post-recession condo buildings constructed in Brickell. The developer sold 98 percent of the tower’s 374 units within three months of opening, property records show.

Boomerang’s technology was meant to move cars automatically into parking spots without drivers inside them. But condo owners allege that it would take hours to get their cars, and the system began malfunctioning as soon as residents moved in, according to the association’s complaint. The condo association also alleged that the system would often stall and malfunction and would only work properly under constant staff supervision.

The developer offered to fix the technology or to replace it, but the association declined the offers, according to an affidavit by Hernandez.

While Brickell House’s car elevator malfunctioned, a number of other self-driving car elevators in boutique condo and apartment projects remain in use and have become a potent marketing tool. Notably, Dezer Development’s Porsche Design Tower has a car elevator known as the “Dezervator” that takes cars to resident’s individual condo units. And in Boston, a recently completed luxury condo building called the Boulevard plans to use an automatic system to move cars into a 35-space underground garage.