Some Good News for a Change?
Castle Beach Condos -- Miami Beach

Article Courtesy of the Miami Sun Post
Published November 26, 2005

Could it be? Might it be a step forward for the hundreds of frustrated Castle Beach unit owners (who had to abruptly relocate from their 5445 Collins Ave. condos last April after the city of Miami Beach red-tagged the building)?

At the Hyatt Regency hotel in Coral Gables last Sunday, several owners were hotly anticipating the results of court-ordered condominium elections to reinstate a board of directors, all relieved that they could regain control over their condemned building, an 18-story complex originally developed in 1967 as the Hilton Plaza.

Back in April, Judge Marc Schumacher had put a receiver from the accounting firm Kaufman Rossin & Company in charge of the building’s operation – Robert Stone. He has been actively seeking lenders and a $25 million loan to start construction on the building and get unit owners back into their homes.

But for more than eight months, there has been basically no work done on the building and residents have been left in limbo with no surefire time frame as to when they could go back to their seaside condos. Additionally, many of them are quite peeved at the $30,000-per-head salary that Stone has been collecting every month, despite the fact there hasn’t been much progress at all. There still isn’t a lender in place so no work can begin.

Murmurs is especially bothered by this situation because, due to the circumstances, the delightful Russian Turkish Baths, tucked within a magical grotto down below in the Castle Beach building, have had to close as well: Oh those soothing, steamy sessions in the eucalyptus-scented steam room sure hit the spot after sordid work hours. How we miss them.

But just Monday Judge Schumacher ratified the election results, approving new board members Juan C. Gonzalez, Elizabeth L. Izquierdo, Angel F. Leal Jr., Sergio Purrinos and Margarita Suarez-Rivas. He returned daily operating control to the newly seated board and let Stone remain as a financial receiver.

The previous board of directors was sued by unit owners who charged that its members allocated maintenance fees only to “hotel” units owned by board members Leopoldo Gonzalez, Emilio Berkowitz and Horacio Mecozzia. The three own 150 of the 540 Castle Beach units, which were used as hotel rooms.

“The new board will need to deal with the building restoration and projected reopening issues,” said Stone, adding that there’s a term sheet – a general outline of a proposed transaction – available and subject to a formal loan agreement. Nothing’s binding until the agreement is signed and court-approved.

The new board members could not be reached by deadline to discuss plans to get the building reopened.

Joseph Ganguzza, the attorney repping the five new board members and their supporters, announced that the new board should be meeting soon with engineers and will figure how much the whole thing’s going to cost. Ganguzza is also quite optimistic, expecting the building to reopen after six weeks. Lenders have been really reluctant to provide financing for the renovation project, so they’re going to get the initial funding from a special assessment.


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