Coconut Grove

Who is buying six key properties in this historic black neighborhood? So far, it’s a mystery.

A boarded-up building at 3440 Grand Avenue in West Coconut Grove, seen on December 2, 2016, was part of a large assemblage of properties in the historically black community slated for a long-stalled redevelopment.
A boarded-up building at 3440 Grand Avenue in West Coconut Grove, seen on December 2, 2016, was part of a large assemblage of properties in the historically black community slated for a long-stalled redevelopment. jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

A mystery buyer has snagged six hotly contested lots along Grand Avenue in historically black West Coconut Grove that were once part of a massive assemblage of properties for an ambitious but dormant redevelopment scheme.

A corporation registered in Delaware, B and B Grove Properties, submitted the highest bid for the half-dozen properties in U.S. bankruptcy court in Miami. The corporation’s $5.6 million combined bid for two sets of properties, denominated as the Nassau and Abaco holdings, beat out bids by two locals, including Terra Group’s David Martin. Martin at one point last year had a deal to buy most of the original six-block assemblage for $35 million, but backed out, contending the land is contaminated.

The disposition of the lots in court has been closely watched as a possible signal on the status of the stalled revamp for the depressed Grand Avenue corridor, once the thriving heart of the Bahamian West Grove community.

Under an Oct. 31 order by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol, the sale of the six lots, which includes the site of the Range Funeral Home, was to close by Monday. The court-appointed trustee for the properties, Drew Dillworth, did not respond to a query from the Herald on Friday. Neither did the winning bidders’ attorney, Corali Lopez-Castro.

The original Bahamian-style mixed-use redevelopment plan by Grove-based Pointe Group Advisors, approved by the city in in the late 2000s, raised hopes of revitalization and fears of gentrification in the mostly poor community. Pointe Group, now part of Collier’s International, was never able to close on the majority of the assemblage, today a hardscrabble collection of mostly deteriorated apartments and vacant lots.

The identity of the B and B Grove principals is publicly unknown for now. Delaware corporation records available online don’t list names.

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes Coconut Grove, and Javier Gonzalez, vice chair of the Coconut Grove Village Council, an elected advisory board, said Friday they don’t know who B and B Grove’s principals are. Russell has been pushing the partnership that owns many of the properties along Grand to make repairs to several rundown apartment buildings and find new housing for tenants displaced by demolitions or condemnations.

The six lots are among dozens of contiguous properties bought up by a group of shareholders in the early 2000s and later put up for sale.

The six lots, which slipped into bankruptcy amid a legal war among the shareholders, are not contiguous, however, but sit on the south side of the 3300 block of Grand and both sides of the 3400 block.

That raises questions about the new owners’ intentions — whether they’re seeking to purchase other adjoining lots for redevelopment, intend to redevelop in piecemeal fashion, or are acting as spoilers looking to cash in when others attempt to assemble land to build.

Aside from Martin’s TC Grove Investments group, B and B Grove’s bid also beat out a bid by Crunch Properties, whose listed principal is Orlando Benitez, Jr., a shareholder in the original assemblage partnership. Peter Gardner, a former principal of Pointe Group who now works with Colliers International, served as “stalking horse bidder,” setting a base price for the bidding. He did not submit a subsequent bid.

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