Setai Miami Beach owners and condo association sue city over Bulgari hotel height increase

Lawsuit alleges city improperly approved items for planned expansion of the former Seagull Hotel Miami Beach

Rendering of the proposed Bulgari Hotel (Bulgari)
Rendering of the proposed Bulgari Hotel (Bulgari)

The Setai Miami Beach’s owners and condominium association are seeking to upend the redevelopment of a neighboring property that is slated to become Bulgari’s first hotel on U.S. soil.

Setai Hotel Acquisition LLC, an entity owned by the Nakash family of Jordache Jeans fame, and the Setai Resort and Residences Condominium Association on July 6 sued the city of Miami Beach and BHMI Miami Limited Corp, a partnership between Bulgari and developer Blue Horizon Group. The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, seeks to void recent city approvals that allow expanding the ground floor and adding two floors to the shuttered Seagull Hotel Miami Beach at 100 21st Street. The complaint alleges Miami Beach officials improperly granted zoning amendments because the Bulgari development partnership dangled a $7.4 million contribution to the city.

According to the lawsuit, the improvements to the Seagull would block the view corridors of rooms in the historic Art Deco Dempsey-Vanderbilt Hotel that is part of the Setai Miami Beach, which also includes a 40-story tower with 175 residences. Kent Harrison Robbins, the attorney for the condo association, said the city passed an ordinance in 2007 protecting the Dempsey-Vanderbilt’s ocean view corridors. The tower units sit atop a parking garage and are not affected by the proposed Seagull addition.

“For years, the Dempsey-Vanderbilt had views of the ocean, and the city protected those views by ordinance,” Robbins said. “Now after the Bulgari developer offered $7.4 million, the city is taking those view guarantees away.”

The Nakash family’s lawyer Bradley Gould did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

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The Bulgari hotel’s plans have gone through several public hearings, including in front of the Miami Beach Planning Board, twice before the city commission and, most recently, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board. All three granted unanimous approvals.

“We are excited about moving forward in developing a six-star resort that will elevate Miami Beach’s appeal as an international destination and deliver significant economic impact, and we look forward to prevailing against these baseless claims,” said the hotel partnership’s Miami attorney Carter McDowell in an emailed statement.

Miami Beach’s acting city attorney, Rafael Paz, also said the Setai lawsuit is baseless. “It’s a bit perplexing when a 385-foot Goliath complains that the 120-foot David next door is somehow blocking its views,” Paz said via email. “We believe the claims in this lawsuit are just as perplexing, and will fail on the merits.”

According to the complaint, vacating the right of way allows the Bulgari development partnership to add 13,500 square feet of developable land that will allow the construction of an eight-story addition to the Bulgari hotel. Since the right-of-way serves as an access point to the public beach from Collins Avenue, the city is required to hold a voter referendum and failed to do so, the lawsuit states.

Blue Horizon, led by CEO Nabil Kobeissi, bought the 100-room Seagull for $120 million in January 2020. The company partnered with Bulgari to transform the 1948 building into the luxury retailer’s first U.S. hotel, which is expected to open by 2024.