Centner Academy owners assemble land in Wynwood 

School owners are buying up sites in the Wynwood Norte district 

From left: Babba Joshua Yesharim, David and Leila Centner and 3442 and 3490 Northwest Second Avenue in Wynwood
From left: Babba Joshua Yesharim, David and Leila Centner and 3442 and 3490 Northwest Second Avenue in Wynwood (Google Maps)

The controversial owners of Centner Academy in Miami are assembling land in Wynwood Norte, The Real Deal has learned. 

Entities tied to David and Leila Centner acquired the adjacent parcels at 3442 and 3490 Northwest Second Avenue for $4.7 million in January, records show. The lots total 0.2 acres and include a 7,660-square-foot building the Centners have been using as storage for the school. 

They also own the 0.8-acre property at 3465 Northwest Second Avenue. State records show attorney Jamie Mandel, who represents the Centners on their real estate deals, now manages the company that owns the 12,000-square-foot school building. A deed transfer has not been recorded. Mandel did not respond to a request for comment. 

Real estate investor Babba Joshua Yesharim’s BHBH LLC sold the properties at 3442 and 3490 Northwest Second Avenue. Yesharim’s company paid just $275,000 for the lots in 2011, marking a 16-fold price increase in 12 years. 

Yesharim said his parcels were on the market for $5.5 million, and that the Centners canceled their contract to buy the lots. After receiving offers from other buyers, he approached the Centners to see if they were still interested, and they negotiated the latest deal. 

Virgilio Fernandez
Virgilio Fernandez

Virgilio Fernandez of Colliers South Florida represented Yesharim. Re/Max agent Andrea Dalessio represented the Centners. Dalessio did not respond to requests for comment. 

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Fernandez said the city’s upzoning of the Wynwood Norte district in 2021 has spurred interest in the area. The zoning overhaul was meant to encourage affordable housing development, preserve the area’s character, and create economic opportunities for small businesses and residents. The 140-acre district extends from Northeast and Northwest 29th Street to 36th Street and between North Miami Avenue and Northwest Seventh Avenue.

Fernandez also represented Yesharim on his $3.5 million sale last year of 3501 Northwest Second Avenue and the adjacent lot at 187 Northwest 35th Street. Yesharim said the Centners were interested in buying those parcels, but the buyer, City Electric Supply Wynwood, exercised its option as a tenant to purchase the properties. 

Fernandez said he’s seeing “tremendous appetite” from buyers in Wynwood Norte “despite some headwinds in the market,” referring to a number of factors affecting the market slowdown, including high mortgage rates, economic uncertainty and rising insurance and construction costs. Fernandez is involved in a nearly $5 million deal nearby that’s set to close later this month, he said. 

The Centners will likely use their properties to expand their Centner Academy school, which has locations at 4136 North Miami Avenue, near the Miami Design District, and at 1911 Northeast Miami Court. 

Yesharim said the Centners are also building an apartment project down the street from the Wynwood Norte assemblage, just south of Roberto Clemente Park. Property records show a company managed by Coral Gables-based ABH Developer Group paid about $7.5 million for the land at 3311 and 3327 Northwest Second Avenue and 182 Northwest 34th Street. ABH Developer Group did not respond to a request for comment. 

The Centners made headlines in 2020 when the school threatened to fire teachers if they received the Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the school year. The school also asked students who received the vaccine to quarantine for 30 days, but then walked back on the decision, according to Local 10.

In October, the couple sold a nearly 1-acre development site on the southwest corner of Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 34th Street in Edgewater to Amit Kort and his investment partners for $16.5 million. In 2018, the Centners paid $11.5 million for the properties, which are in an Opportunity Zone.