Developer files $225 million suit against homeowners in stalled Aventura luxury project

Rendering of the Privé at Island Estates condominium project on the north island of Island Estates in Aventura.
Rendering of the Privé at Island Estates condominium project on the north island of Island Estates in Aventura. GLOBALAERIALS.NET

Weeks after filing a $200 million lawsuit against the City of Aventura, the developers of a stalled luxury condo project on an exclusive island near the city are going to court again.

This time, BH3 Realty and Gary Cohen are asking for $225 million in damages against 23 homeowners who live on islands near the proposed eight-acre project, called the Privé at Island Estates.

The suit alleges that the homeowners “are doing everything in their power, legal or not, to stop the Project, either out of avarice for financial gain or selfishness.”

In an interview, Daniel Lebensohn, managing partner at the developer BH3 Realty, said the homeowners are “behaving like spoiled brats.”

The homeowners have filed several suits of their own against the developers in order to stop construction. They say they are concerned about traffic, zoning and privacy issues.

A judge has issued an injunction against the developers in one of those suits. The city has refused to issue permits for the project while the issue is appealed.

The developers had initially proposed building 17 single-family homes on the vacant island near Aventura. But they later decided on two 16-story condo towers with 160 units and a parking garage with room for 572 cars.

Daniel Sawicki has lived on the island directly to the south of the proposed project for more than 10 years. The two islands are connected by a bridge.

Sawicki said the homeowners are not acting illegally or out of malice. “We simply can’t imagine 600 cars going back and forth everyday on the little street in front of our house,” he said. Susan Rafanello, an attorney for the homeowners on Island Estates, said the developers were attempting to “bully people into allowing them to do whatever they want.”

The developers have already sold 71 of the units, which amounts to $192 million in sales and $55 million in escrow. The buyers expect their condos to be ready by the first quarter of 2017, according to the suit.