Brickell church sale holdout could scuttle $240M deal with 13th Floor, Key International

Organization that oversees Presbyterian churches in Florida will consider approving or voiding deal

Arnaud Karsenti with 609 Brickell Avenue (Google Maps, 13th Floor, Key International)
Arnaud Karsenti with 609 Brickell Avenue (Google Maps, 13th Floor, Key International)

Arnaud Karsenti’s 13th Floor Investments’ plan for an 80-story condominium tower on a church parking lot and school – the last developable waterfront Brickell site – could be scuttled by a congregation member who opposes the deal.

13th Floor and the Ardid family’s Key International, both based in Miami, want to purchase 2.2 acres that are part of the First Miami Presbyterian Church’s property at 609 Brickell Avenue, according to the Miami Herald. The church stands to gain $240 million.

First Miami Presbyterian member Cary Tolley’s complaint that seeks to block the deal gained ground when the Synod of the South Atlantic Permanent Judicial Commission voted 6-2 that he has legal standing, or the right to pursue his filing, the Herald reported.

The Synod of the South Atlantic Permanent Judicial Commission, which oversees Presbyterian churches in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and also issues judicial decisions concerning the churches, voted on the Brickell issue nearly two weeks ago. Next, it will hold an in-person hearing in the spring in Atlanta on whether to void an October 2021 vote by the majority of church members in favor of the deal.

Tolley filed his complaint with the body that oversees the church, the Presbytery of Tropical Florida, soon after the approval vote of the sale. He is pushing for another congregation vote and wants the developers to reduce the condo size, the Herald reported.

The Presbytery, led by Rev. Daris Bultena, wants to close the deal, with Bultena calling it a “historic partnership” with the two developers.

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Still, there could be a settlement on the issue, as Tolley said he wants to explore all possibilities prior to the Atlanta hearing. “As Presbyterians, we believe that you always try to resolve differences in as graceful a manner as you can,” he said, according to the Herald.

13th Floor and Key International did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment.

The developers have partnered on other Brickell projects, completing the 50-story, 389-unit 1010 Brickell in 2017.

The First Miami Presbyterian Church property also has a pending $7 million tax lien. The Presbytery is slated to meet with Miami-Dade County property appraiser and tax collector officials to dispute the lien.

Miami designated the Presbyterian church building, constructed in 1949, as historic in 2003, according to the city’s website. Architect Lester Geisler designed the building in the Mediterranean Revival style.

[Miami Herald — Lidia Dinkova]