Article Courtesy of The Miami
Published March 18, 2008
the evening of June 28, 2005, about 25 owners who had recently moved into
the condominium conversion called 401 Blu received letters from its
then-Project Manager Debra Mason telling them they had 24 hours to get
due to circumstances beyond our control, we can no longer have residents
living in the building while construction is under way in the common
corridors,” announced the letter. “We anticipate that work in the
common areas will be complete within two to four weeks.”
Carlson of Illinois-based Comprehensive Management Services purchased the
207-unit building at 401 69th St., Miami Beach in 2003. Another Carlson
company, Byhall, LLC, owns 81 units in the building and is the subject of
multiple lawsuits by other owners seeking damages. Carlson is also
converting another building, Treasure on the Bay, at 1900 S. Treasure
Drive in North Bay Village.
in the first half of 2005, a title company associated with 401 Blu
allegedly pressured contracted buyers to close on their units despite the
fact that the building hadn’t received certificates of occupancy from
the Miami Beach Building Department because it was still under
construction. A July 7, 2005, SunPost article stated that one buyer
had been told he’d be fined $160 per day if he didn’t close on his
two-bedroom unit. That same article quotes then-Miami Beach Building
Official Hamid Dolikhani as saying: “It is very questionable how they
even closed [on the units] without any certificates of occupancy from the
than two years later, lives are still on hold, people’s financial credit
has been destroyed, the developer has yet to complete the building, and
everyone associated with him is keeping quiet about it.
of Carlson’s tight-lipped representatives, Alfredo Gonzalez of Greenberg
Traurig, appeared before the Miami Beach Zoning Board of Adjustment on
Aug. 3 to give a progress report. The board granted a variance to build
two sets of exit steps that the Fire Department required in January. The
variance was necessary because development regulations had changed since
1970, when the complex was first built. Sonia Machen, the Miami Beach fire
marshal, told the SunPost that the interior fire exit stairs were
fine, but because an outside ramp on the building was “too steep,” two
small sets of steps were needed.
variance was requested at the December 2006 Board of Adjustment meeting
and continued for 30 days until the January 2007 board meeting, where it
was approved, with the condition a progress report be presented at the
March meeting. Owners showed up to those meetings and testified to poor
management of the building and numerous other problems. But it seems the
city can do little to help them.
board doesn’t have the jurisdiction over real estate transactions, but
was concerned and wanted to monitor progress,” Planning and Zoning
Manager Richard Lorber told the SunPost.
progress report was requested for May 4, and finally another for Aug. 3.
Gonzalez told the board that construction on the steps was set to begin
be honest with you, we are dealing with bad people here,” board member
Seth Frohlich testified about the character of the development company.
Alvarez, an attorney with Alvarez, Paz & Barbara, spoke on behalf of
Diego Quint, one of the original owners who was forced to move out in
2005. He and at least 20 others are suing for damages. Quint is seeking in
excess of $50,000.
for a better life, Quint came to Miami Beach in 2001 from Argentina as
that country’s economy was collapsing. A hair stylist by trade, he saved
money and was able to buy a condominium for him and his family. His wife,
Vilma, and their American-born twin 3-year-olds, Lucas and Thomas, were
visiting family in Argentina when Quint closed on the $272,000 one-bedroom
condo. He’d been living in the condo for five days, and his family was
scheduled to arrive from Argentina the next day, when a vacate notice was
slid under his door at 11 p.m. At the time Quint’s English was poor, so
he had a neighbor translate for him.
couldn’t believe it,” Quint told the SunPost. “I couldn’t
believe it. And basically I was crying.”
next morning he picked up his family at Miami International Airport.
we go back to the building, the building is under a disaster,” Quint
said. “Everybody’s down there in the office, screaming, yelling. I
said, ‘No, this cannot happen to me.’”
first it seemed CMS truly felt bad and wanted to help the affected unit
owners, Quint said. The developer arranged for hotel rooms and said in
writing, “For those who find alternate lodging, a per diem allotment of
$100 per day will be provided.”
moved his family into the Golden Sands Hotel at 6901 Collins Ave. Over a
three-month period they received $5,600 from CMS. The money stopped coming
in December 2005. But he wasn’t allowed to move into his condominium
until September 2006, when the city issued the seventh floor a certificate
that period Quint paid the mortgage and taxes on a condominium he
couldn’t live in, on top of rent on another apartment. Part of his
lawsuit demands reimbursement for the extra costs incurred. Even if he
wins, he says it’s too little too late; that the financial burden
already broke up his family. Last year, saying the stress was too much for
her, his wife took their boys back to Buenos Aires. Now Quint lives with a
roommate in a rented apartment while he leases his 401 Blu condo at a
loss. His tenant’s lease doesn’t expire for another six months.
half of the building’s 16 floors are still uninhabitable because they
don’t have certificates of completion. The developer hasn’t applied
for permits for two of the floors. Fees of $37,845.30 are owed on the
week Candace Duff, another of Carlson’s Greenberg Traurig attorneys, was
startled when she answered a phone call from the SunPost seeking
sorry. I cannot. Thank you very much,” Duff said in a harried voice
before slamming the receiver down.
said there are rumors Duff is trying to take herself off the case.
didn’t return repeated calls for comment either. In fact, no one
associated with the developer would comment. Carlson himself could not be
reached for comment.
the Board of Adjustment expressed sympathy for the 401 Blu owners seeking
restitution, its hands are tied.
purview is the granting of a variance to build egress stairs,” board
member Larry Herrup said. “That’s it.”
city board voted to bring the variance issue back for another progress
report in October. It would like Carlson himself to appear, but by law he
can send a representative.
Quint is beginning to lose hope that he will see his money. Rumors are
circulating around the building that Byhall, LLC, is preparing to declare
for bankruptcy protection.
Quint: “I don’t know what will happen to us.”