Privé at Island Estates developer sues Suffolk Construction over defects

Developer alleges general contractor appeared to abandon project without making fixes at the two-tower Aventura condo project

Prive at Island Estates and BH3’s Charlie Phelan, Greg Freedman and Daniel Lebensohn and Gary Cohen
Prive at Island Estates and BH3’s Charlie Phelan, Greg Freedman and Daniel Lebensohn and Gary Cohen

Two years after winning a protracted legal battle with neighboring property owners, the developer of Privé at Island Estates in Aventura has a new adversary in its sights.

Privé Developers LLC sued Suffolk Construction in Miami-Dade Circuit Court earlier this month for alleged construction defects and delays at the 160-unit luxury condominium project at 5000 Island Boulevard. The complaint also accuses the Boston-based general contractor of abandoning the job before it was supposed to finish addressing the defects.

Privé Developers is a partnership between Gary Cohen and BH3. In a statement, BH3 co-founder Daniel Lebensohn said: “We are advocating on behalf of our owners and their desire to have every aspect of the Privé project completed impeccably and enforce their contractual rights.”

Jay Tangney, Suffolk vice-president and general counsel, did not respond to two phone messages seeking comment.

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The lawsuit comes two years after a jury sided with the developer in a contentious lawsuit brought by the Williams Island Property Owners Association in 2013 to stop the project. Cohen and BH3 were awarded $26 million, but settled for $21.6 million.

According to the latest complaint, Suffolk was supposed to complete Privé’s two 14-story towers on Aug. 4, 2017. When Suffolk failed to achieve substantial completion by May 2018, Suffolk CEO John Fish allegedly told Privé Developers his firm would give back its money if the general contractor didn’t deliver on its promise, the lawsuit states. Instead, Suffolk “appeared to abandon the project as various unresolved deficiencies and defects persisted.”

The defects included cracking stucco in some areas of the buildings, visible leaks from pipes and cracked pool deck tiles, according to the complaint. In January 2018, Privé Developers claimed it submitted a report documenting the defects to Suffolk, but the general contractor did not fix any of the deficiencies, the suit states.

A year later, Suffolk submitted a claim with its insurance company on behalf of Privé Developers, but it was denied because the general contractor failed to provide supporting backup documentation, the lawsuit alleges. In November 2019, Privé Developers sent Suffolk a notice of default.

Privé, which sits on an 8-acre island, includes 70,000 square feet of amenities with a large art collection, two 10,000-square-foot fitness centers, pools, Jacuzzis, and a private marina. The condo development is 90 percent sold, according to its website.