Estates at Acqualina developer fires general contractor 

Trump Group and GC Suffolk Construction have waged a legal battle for over a year

Trump Group's Jules Trump and Suffolk's John Fish with Estates at Acqualina
Trump Group's Jules Trump and Suffolk's John Fish with Estates at Acqualina (Getty, Google Maps)

Trump Group terminated its contract with Suffolk Construction over Estates at Acqualina, the two-tower luxury condo development in Sunny Isles Beach, The Real Deal has learned. 

Suffolk’s last day on the job site was Thursday, June 29, according to an email that developer Jules Trump sent to residents and future residents of the project. At least 176 unit sales have been recorded at the 248-unit development at 17901 Collins Avenue. Buyers include NBA superstar LeBron James

In Trump’s letter sent to residents, he wrote that “the decision to terminate Suffolk was not reached in haste or overnight.” 

The developer and Suffolk have been locked in a litigation for more than a year over issues relating to delays, payment, quality of the work, the construction workforce, and more. Suffolk signed a $129.5 million contract three years ago to develop the project’s north tower. It took over from Coastal Construction, which signed a $600 million contract with the developer to build the entire project in 2018.

Trump affiliate A3 Development sued Suffolk in February 2022, and Suffolk countersued the following month. The two sides reached a settlement agreement in May of last year, only for Suffolk to reopen its lawsuit against Trump Group affiliates in the fall. 

In the developer’s email sent last week, Trump wrote that the project’s ownership “vigorously implored Suffolk to cure its deficiencies when delays to the project became imminent and unresolved.” 

A Suffolk spokesperson said that Suffolk hasn’t been paid in more than six months, and that while it takes “immense pride” in its work and commitment to completing Estates, “no one should be expected to work for free.” 

“Only a tiny fraction of their claims have any legitimacy whatsoever,” Jules Trump said. Trump, (of no relation to the former president), added that his firm has been paying all the subcontractors directly. “We’ve laid out far more on their behalf than they’ve amassed in legitimate charges,” he said. 

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The Suffolk spokesperson said that the firm looks forward to “pursuing appropriate remedies in court.”

The first tower at Estates was supposed to be completed in August 2021, and was delivered in the summer of 2022. The second tower was supposed to be completed in February 2022. It is still under construction. 

The property’s anchor restaurant, Avra Miami, opened in November. It’s unclear if the 45,000-square-foot amenities villa that sits between the two towers has been completed. The late fashion and design icon Karl Lagerfeld designed the development’s lobbies. 

Delays resulting from supply chain and labor issues have become more common, but the feud between Suffolk and Trump Group has escalated beyond typical pandemic-related challenges. Suffolk said in the past that it is the third general contractor to work on the project, following Moss Construction and Coastal Construction. Suffolk cited a lawsuit Coastal filed against the developer and settled last year.

In recent years, Suffolk has been involved in litigation on other South Florida projects. A year ago, the company filed a lawsuit against an affiliate of KAR Properties, seeking at least $16 million in damages tied to allegedly unpaid work.  In 2020, the developers of Privé in Aventura sued Suffolk over alleged defects and delays at the luxury condo project.

After terminating the contract with Suffolk last month, Trump notified the project’s surety, which acts like insurance. Typically, the surety will then conduct an investigation to determine whether the general contractor is in default of its agreement with the developer, said construction attorney Jordan Nadel, of Mark Migdal & Hayden. 

Nadel, who is not involved in the project, said that if the surety determines that Suffolk defaulted, it could pursue different options, depending on its contract. The surety could likely either pay a new contractor to take over, up to a certain amount, or pay the developer the amount that the bond covers. 

“There are so many moving parts, so many parties, so many stakeholders,” said Nadel. “Every step of the process is complicated.” 

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From left: The Trump Group's Jules Trump and Suffolk Construction's John Fish along with a rendering of the Estates at Acqualina (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty, The Trump Group, and Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L.)
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Jenni and Joshua Coba with Estates at Acqualina (Getty, Google Maps)
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