Swerdlow sues Arquitectonica for $16M in alleged design errors

Miami architecture firm is accused of causing 170 changes to Overtown project’s building plans

Swerdlow Sues Arquitectonica For $16M In Damages
Developer Michael Swerdlow and Arquitectonica's Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear with rendering of Block 55 (Swerdlow Group, Arquitectonica, Getty)

Developer Michael Swerdlow insists he has no beef with Arquitectonica, but he was forced to sue the award-winning Miami-based architecture firm for eight figures in damages. 

In a civil lawsuit filed last week, the development entity for Swerdlow’s Block 55 mixed-use project in Miami’s Overtown alleges Arquitectonica is responsible for design errors that led to 170 change orders totaling $16 million.

“This was done with great reluctance on our part,” Swerdlow, managing partner of Miami-based Swerdlow Group, told The Real Deal. “I happen to love that firm, and we continue to work with them.” 

A spokesperson for Arquitectonica, led by principals Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear, did not respond to voicemail and email requests for comment. 

Arquitectonica farmed out design work for structural, mechanical, electrical and other building infrastructure plans to subcontractors that are not contractually bound to the development entity, Swerdlow said. 

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“The errors that we are complaining about were made by their subcontractors,” Swerdlow said. “We don’t feel they did an appropriate job.” 

The complaint, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleges Arquitectonica failed to coordinate plans across all disciplines, failed to accurately review and investigate change order requests, and committed other breaches of the architectural contract. 

Block 55 is currently under construction on a 3.4-acre site at 249 Northwest Sixth Street. The 18-story project will consist of 578 senior affordable housing units and 250,000 square feet of office and retail, including big box spaces for anchor tenants Target, Aldi, Ross and Burlington. 

Swerdlow and partners SJM and Alben Duffie bought the development site from the Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency for $10 million and nabbed a $25 million loan for the purchase in 2020. The joint venture also secured $7.5 million in grants from the city of Miami for the affordable housing component.  

Last year, Swerdlow’s Block 55 won a Miami-Dade ruling against rival developer R. Donahue Peebles. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman ordered a Peebles entity to pay Block 55’s legal fees totaling $800,000. Peebles lost a 2020 lawsuit challenging the CRA’s awarding of the development site to Swerdlow and his partners. Last month, Peebles voluntarily dismissed his appeal, court filings show.