Residents of downtown Miami’s largest condo complex may want to jump in one of their three pools before it’s too late — the massive two-acre swimming deck at Icon Brickell is in need of major repairs and could be closed for more than a year.
The terraced deck overlooks Biscayne Bay and offers a football field-sized infinity pool, an 80-person hot tub and a lap pool. Japanese cherry blossom trees shade guests from the sun while a 12-foot outdoor fireplace, life-size chess set and café provide creature comforts.
“The pool is one of the primary draws for the entire complex,” said Peter Zalewski, a local condo market analyst.
Residents at the three-tower complex, where units run from $300,000 to $4 million, are steamed. They say they can’t get a straight answer about when the pool will close and for how long.
Icon’s condo associations didn’t want to comment for this story. They’re locked in a legal battle with the project’s general contractor over allegedly faulty construction throughout the entire site. The contractor, John Moriarty & Associates, said its work was top quality.
But four people who work at Icon confirmed that the pool is in deep trouble. The workers said repairs could take anywhere from half a year to 14 months. They gave different answers as to what went wrong.
Some workers said tiles on the deck grow so slick when wet that residents and staffers are in constant danger of falling. The deck will need to be completely re-tiled, they said. Another explained that the pool’s piping system needs to be ripped out and redone.
“It’s a huge job,” said the worker, who did not want to be named.
Local mega-builder Related Group developed the project but isn’t involved in the lawsuit. It turned over two of the towers to lender HSBC Holdings in 2010 to avoid default as the economy foundered. Some units in the building sat unsold for several years.
Icon, located in a prime bayfront spot just east of Brickell Avenue and south of the Miami River, includes about 1,650 residential units. The $1 billion project has two 58-story towers and one 50-story tower, where Viceroy Miami operates a boutique hotel. Related finished construction in 2008.
The pools sit on a 15th-story deck above a parking garage. They are open to condo residents and hotel guests.
Realtors say it’s unusual for a newly built pool to have so many problems and that unit prices could drop as a result.
“It’s very rare for a fairly new building to shut down its pool for such a long period of time,” said Andres Larin, a broker who runs the website Brickell.com. “From what I’ve gathered, the pool has cracks, which are leaking into the parking garage below. The pool will undergo maintenance this year and is expected to be closed for at least 12 months.”
Michael Light, a local broker and blogger, said one of his clients bought a unit at the Icon in November — before word of the pool closing leaked out.
“The condo association is being very cagey,” Light said. “They won’t tell us anything … I think this is going to severely impact values in the building.”
A fourth pool, open only to unit owners, is perched on top of Icon’s 50-story tower. Workers said hotel guests will likely use that pool while the main deck is closed.
The Viceroy may need to go after a different customer base if the main pool deck shuts down, said Max Comess, a director at HFF’s hotel group.
“It’s not great for the hotel but it’s not doomsday,” Comess said. “They may find they are less effective in drawing that family customer or weekend warrior who places a lot of value on the pool. So they may find themselves going after corporate and group travel — people who are here on business and aren’t that interested in swimming.”
The hotel did not return a call seeking comment. Neither did the three condo associations. (Each tower has its own governing board.)
More pool, more problems
Developers have built more than 11,200 condo units in Brickell since 2003, according to Cranespotters.com. It’s not surprising that some buildings would have flaws, said Jack McCabe, a real-estate market analyst based in Deerfield Beach.
Newsworthy examples of recent condo foul-ups include a robotic parking garage that went haywire and shut down at developer Harvey Hernandez’s Brickell House and the discovery of defective Chinese drywall at 500 Brickell East, also a Related project. Farther north, in Sunny Isles Beach, the top floor of a luxury condo tower exploded because of a gas leak, injuring several workers and bystanders.
Developers rushed to finish their projects during the last cycle because they knew the market was crashing down around them, McCabe said.
“They were all so afraid that if they didn’t get the buildings finished, buyers were going to walk away,” he said. “This may be one of the first of many lawsuits that we see in the coming years as the shortcomings in these buildings become apparent.”
The problems at Icon extend far beyond the pool, according to lawsuits filed in county court last year by the complex’s condo associations.
The suits allege faulty construction throughout the buildings. They say general contractor John Moriarty & Associates and architects Arquitectonica violated building codes.
It’s not uncommon for builders and architects to find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit after a project.
The Miami Heat sued Arquitectonica in 2014 over what it said were design flaws and missed deadlines at AmericanAirlines Arena. That case was settled on undisclosed terms last year, according to Heat lawyer Alan Fein.
The condo association at One Miami, another Related project just across the river from Icon, sued Moriarty in 2010 claiming construction defects. That suit was also settled for an undisclosed amount, court records show.
Both Moriarty and Arquitectonica are named in the pool deck suit, along with Icon Brickell, the development entity created when Related turned over two of Icon’s towers to HSBC. The lender declined to comment.
Also named are 24 subcontractors. Related is not one of the parties being sued.
“The Related Group does not own or control Icon Brickell in any way and has had no involvement in development of Icon Brickell Condominiums since May of 2010,” Betsy McCoy, Related’s general counsel, said in an email. “Related is not involved in the lawsuit.”
The first complaint listed in the suit? The lack of slip-resistant floor tiles on the pool deck.
The condo associations commissioned inspections of the complex when they took it over from HSBC in 2012. Those reports, included in the suit, found other problems including:
- a faulty infinity edge on the main pool that allowed water to spread over the entire deck
- water leaking into the parking garage through cracked and improperly-installed stucco
- burned-out and broken-down motors in the pool pump
- a smoke-control system in the garage not backed up by emergency power
- elevators moving more slowly than agreed upon in the construction contract
In a response to the complaint, construction company Moriarty said that any defects were the result of the condo associations not performing routine maintenance and that its work met all buildings codes.
“The plaintiffs have presented us with nothing proving faulty construction,” Linda Agnant, a lawyer for Moriarty, said in a phone interview. “I understand that they’re not happy with their pool deck and want to replace it, but so far there has been nothing that would substantiate any claims of faulty construction.”
Design firm Arquitectonica did not respond to a request for comment.
Related also did not comment on the alleged defects at Icon.
Brokers said that any controversy at the complex could make some buyers skittish about future projects by the developer. They asked not to be named in order to protect their relationships with the company.
Icon was the centerpiece of Related’s empire during the last building cycle, which ended with the national housing market in ruins.
In 2009, Pérez gave a Miami Herald reporter a tour of Icon’s new pool deck.
Asked Pérez as he showed off his creation: “Do you think anyone else builds something like this?”