Winn-Dixie sues landlord over leaky roof at South Miami store

Grocer is seeking $600K in damages against real estate investor Robert Balzebre

Balzebre Investments' Robert Balzebre with 8710 Southwest 72nd Street
Balzebre Investments' Robert Balzebre with 8710 Southwest 72nd Street (Google Maps, Balzebre Investments, Getty)

A leaky roof forced Winn-Dixie to close a South Miami store, and now the grocer wants landlord Robert Balzebre to pay up.

In a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month, the Jacksonville-based grocery chain is seeking a court order to force Balzebre, principal of Miami-based Balzebre Investments, into fixing the roof of the Winn-Dixie store. It anchors the Sunset West shopping center at 8710 Southwest 72nd Street.

Winn-Dixie also is seeking $601,000 in damages and losses as a result of the company closing the store since July 14, the lawsuit states.

Winn-Dixie and its attorney Jeffrey York did not respond to requests for comment.

The friction between Winn-Dixie and Balzebre comes as retail real estate investors are aggressively pursuing grocery store-anchored shopping centers in South Florida.

Sunset West’s property manager, who did not want to be identified, but spoke on behalf of Balzebre, said Winn-Dixie bears responsibility because the company has not replaced its old air conditioning equipment on the roof.

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“We were there with all the Winn-Dixie people a few weeks ago, and one of their units was shedding so much water that it was pouring into the store,” the manager said. “It was condensation from the unit, not rain.”

The landlord has done everything possible to “maintain the quality of the roof and continues to do so,” including spending “large sums of money for emergency repairs and addressing the issues to get them back open,” the manager said.

Winn-Dixie has leased the property since 1969, the lawsuit states. Balzebre’s family purchased the Sunset West shopping center, anchored by the grocery store, in 1992 for $897,400, records show.

According to an Aug. 18 letter Winn-Dixie’s attorney York sent Balzebre’s lawyers, a roof inspection in May commissioned by the landlord found that the “moisture content in large areas of the gravel roof membrane, the fiberboard insulation and the existing lightweight concrete were considered unacceptable per the 2020 Florida building code.”

The four-page-letter includes an itemized list of Winn-Dixie’s alleged damages, including about $149,000 in lost inventory, close to $98,000 in structural repairs and $60,000 in rent. Winn-Dixie also threatened to demand payment for future losses and damages until the store is safe to reopen and the roof is repaired, York’s letter states.

Balzebre Investments is a boutique real estate firm that owns commercial properties in five states, including Florida. The company owns The Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel in Miami Beach, Johnson Square shopping center in Hollywood and four development sites in Coral Gables, Vero Beach and near Sweetwater, Balzebre’s website states.