Battle for their apartments: Hamilton on the Bay tenants in Miami’s Edgewater fight Aimco’s lease terminations

Tenants are seeking financial assistance, extended deadline to move out

Hamilton on the Bay
Hamilton on the Bay

UPDATED, June 8, 8:50 a.m.: Tenants of a prized multifamily property in Miami’s Edgewater are fighting back after their landlord notified them that their leases are being terminated, The Real Deal has learned.

Tenants of the Hamilton on the Bay apartment building are being asked to leave by July 16, according to a lease termination letter obtained by TRD.

Aimco purchased the waterfront Edgewater property last year for nearly $90 million and plans to redevelop the building and adjacent land. The apartment investment giant bought the assemblage at 555 Northeast 34th Street from the Arison family. Carnival Cruise Line founder Ted Arison built the tower, which was designed like a ship, in the early 1980s.

Many of the tenants said they have lived in the building for decades. The 28-story building has been in some form of disrepair since Hurricane Irma, and the 271-unit building is only partially occupied. Many units are torn up, with balconies under construction and hallways unfinished.

Aimco, a Dallas-based publicly traded real estate investment trust, is preparing the Hamilton for construction, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Zoning allows for more than 380 additional apartments on the 4.4 acres of land that Aimco has assembled, including the existing building. Aimco is also rumored to be buying additional land, according to sources.

Residents plan to protest on Tuesday morning what they are calling a mass eviction. A number of tenants told TRD that they were promised that they would be allowed to stay in their units during construction, which has been ongoing. The tenants say they were forced to sign new leases with a cancellation clause, in some cases months before their former leases were set to expire.

In South Florida, the company also owns Flamingo Point in Miami Beach and the Yacht Club at Brickell. In a similar move in 2019, Aimco notified more than 400 tenants at Flamingo Point that their leases were being terminated.

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In the lease termination letter sent to tenants in mid-May, Aimco said the redevelopment had reached a phase where renovations “would block access” to tenants’ apartments. The company said in a statement that it is offering options to tenants such as transferring to apartments in other Aimco communities, offering moving expense discounts, and considering flexible moving times.

Attorney David Winker, who was hired to represent a group of tenants, called it a situation in which Aimco is acting in bad faith. “As far as I can tell, this is pretty unprecedented in South Florida,” Winker said. “We have to remember these renters are not commodities. These renters are humans.”

Aimco’s community manager even notified tenants that the koi fish in the pond installation at the entrance to the building were relocated, according to a screenshot of an email obtained by TRD.

Many residents are elderly and/or disabled, have been paying below-market rents, and are unable to find new apartments in the current market, Winker said. It is unclear how much they are paying for rent. Across Miami, apartment rents and occupancies have risen in recent months, and home sales have skyrocketed.

Rents increased 3 percent in Miami, month-over-month, from April to May, according to Apartment List. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is 1,341 and $1,751 for a two-bedroom apartment.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson sent a letter to Aimco on Monday that outlined a list of requests from tenants, including a move-out extension to mid-September, financial assistance and a pause in “extremely loud and disruptive construction.”

Tenants are seeking $22,500 per unit, according to Wilson’s letter.

“If they’re [Aimco] not willing to negotiate something that works for everyone, we will be fighting it,” Winker said.