Centner Academy owners sell Edgewater dev site

Buyer Amit Kort paid $16.5M for site, with preliminary plans for a mixed-use resi project

From left: Sellers Leila and David Centner and buyer Amit Kort in front of 234-264 Northeast 34th Street in Miami (Getty, Google Maps)
From left: Sellers Leila and David Centner and buyer Amit Kort in front of 234-264 Northeast 34th Street in Miami (Getty, Google Maps)

David and Leila Centner, owners of a controversial private school in Miami, sold a development site in an Opportunity Zone in Edgewater.

Amit Kort and his investment partners, through an entity called Tulip Developments Group, bought the almost 1-acre property on the southwest corner of Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 34th Street in Miami for $16.5 million, according to broker Rena Kliot of Pulse International Realty, who represented both sides of the deal. The six-lot assemblage is at 234-264 Northeast 34th Street.

The Centners sold the assemblage through an affiliate that ties to their Miami Beach-based DLC Capital Management. They had paid $11.5 million for the properties in 2018, records show.

Kort and his investment partners are experienced developers, and some have built projects in South Florida and abroad, Kliot said. She declined to name Kort’s partners.

Their preliminary plan is for a mixed-use project with residences, which likely will be apartments, Kliot said. “They are looking to make a real splash in Miami,” she said. And “this is the beginning.”

The property allows for a 36-story project with 127 units, although the developers can go up to 60 stories and increase the density with bonuses. The Opportunity Zone designation also could offer creative financing options.

Opportunity Zones, created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, allow investors to defer taxes on capital gains in exchange for putting those gains in real estate projects or businesses in areas deemed in need of a financial boost. Developers can source financing for projects in an Opportunity Zone from Qualified Opportunity Zone Funds or put their own gains in such funds, which in turn finance their projects.

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Pulse International Realty's Rena Kliot (Courtesy of Cristian Rivera Foundation)

Pulse International Realty’s Rena Kliot (Courtesy of Cristian Rivera Foundation)

As Kliot and the buyers were looking for a site for their project, she connected them to the Centners, who had previously listed the Edgewater assemblage, but had taken it off the market.
The Centners originally had planned a school for the site but then changed their minds, as they have other properties more conducive for the use, Kliot said.

The Centners own an eponymously named academy at 4136 North Miami Avenue. They paid $10 million for the three-story building in 2018 and then retrofitted it from its previous use as offices. Centner Academy’s building, with royal blue exterior walls, arching first-floor entryways and striped white and blue awnings, is in the Buena Vista neighborhood near the Miami Design District.

The couple opened Centner Academy in 2019 despite pushback from neighbors, who feared increased traffic. They made national headlines last year when they took an anti-vax stance, threatening to fire teachers if they received the Covid-19 shot before the end of the school year. The school asked students who received the vaccine to quarantine for 30 days, but then walked back on the decision, Local 10 reported.

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The Edgewater deal is the latest in a flurry of development site purchases in the neighborhood.

Trilogy Real Estate Group, based in Chicago, paid $30.6 million in March for the land in an Opportunity Zone at 2201 Northeast Second Avenue, with plans for a multifamily project. That followed Trilogy’s December $12.5 millon purchase of the development sites at 169 Northeast 27th Street, 2728 Northeast Second Avenue, and 166 Northeast 28th Street, as well as its $9.8 million purchase of the properties at 2634 Northeast Second Avenue, and 192 and 186 Northeast 27th Street.

Last month, Rotem Rosen and billionaire Anand Mahindra’s MRR Development bought the Edgewater development site at 1801 Northeast Second Avenue for $30 million.