After winning an appeals court decision that caps a lengthy legal battle, the developer of The Markers Grove Isle is moving forward with construction, and rebranding the planned waterfront condominium project as Vita.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2022 after design tweaks, said John Shubin, the attorney for the developer, Grove Isle Associates, LLP. Plans include multiple five-story buildings with a total of about 65 units at 4 Grove Isle in Coconut Grove.
The long-stalled redevelopment project at Miami’s ritzy Grove Isle has been held back by more than a decade of litigation. Since 2018, after settling previous legal claims, Grove Isle Associates and two other developer entities, Grove Isle Yacht & Tennis Club and Grove Isle Club, were hit with new lawsuits filed by the Grove Isle Condominium Association and individual property owners.
The association and the residents opposed the demolition of a shuttered hotel, restaurant, indoor health spa and a clubhouse, as well as the removal of the island’s tennis courts. In 2013, Grove Isle Yacht and Tennis Club purchased Grove Isle Associates. Corporate records list Hector Fernandez-Rousselon, Coral Gables-based Pinto Realty and Key Real Estate Development Group as the managers of Grove Isle Yacht and Tennis Club.
On May 26, the Third District Court of Appeals affirmed a Miami-Dade Circuit Court ruling approving a 2020 settlement agreement between the condo association and Grove Isle Associates and the club entities. Preserve Grove Isle LLC, a nonprofit managed by residents opposing the project that was also a plaintiff, objected to the settlement.
“The court’s affirmance of the settlement agreement is a giant step forward for the entire Grove Isle community, who have put their disputes to rest and focused their energies on ensuring the development of a world-class new residential community in harmony with its neighbors,” Shubin said in an email. “I am glad that the court recognized that the interests of a very few disgruntled residents should not trump the will of a large majority who favored settlement and peace over futile litigation and acrimony.”
Joseph Serota, the attorney for the condo association, said the settlement stipulates that owners in the three existing Grove Isle condo towers will not have to pay dues to access the new restaurant and club that will be part of Vita. A 75 percent majority of the condo association’s membership voted to amend the condominium documents to reflect the elimination of mandatory dues, Serota said.
The developer also agreed to repair the Grove Isle bridge, seawalls and restore the tennis courts. According to court records, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman signed off on the settlement agreement in May of last year.
Five months later, on Sept. 23, Hanzman dismissed a separate 2019 lawsuit against the developer filed by another nonprofit called Save Grove Isle and 22 property owners. In his ruling, the judge cited the settlement agreement and opined that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing. The plaintiffs in that case have an appeal pending before the Third DCA.
But Serota and Shubin insisted it will not block Vita from moving forward.
“The decision by the Third DCA means that this long-contested dispute relating to the new development is now at an end,” Serota said. “The developer will be able to use his land in accordance with the settlement and the association will get significant benefits such as the bridge, seawall and tennis courts. Hopefully, we can move on, and those who live in [Grove Isle] can have some certainty and comfort as to what is going to happen.”
However, Alan Goldfarb, the attorney representing Preserve Grove Isle and Save Grove Isle, said the fight is not over. He also has a personal stake in the battle. A trust in Goldfarb’s name owns a four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo in one of the existing towers at Grove Isle.
“We lost one appeal, but we have another appeal pending,” Goldfarb said. “We are also asking the city of Miami to make [the developer] comply with all appropriate permitting regulations. The reality is that there are outstanding claims and those claims are valid.”