Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Angel Streeter
Published February 12, 2010
Nearly seven years after Eden was launched, offering an oasis in the heart of Boca Raton, a mystery buyer has offered to purchase the unfinished condominium complex from the original developer.
A confidentiality agreement between Ceebraid-Signal Corp. of West Palm Beach and the potential buyer has put the terms of the purchase under a cloak of secrecy.
But both parties are asking Boca Raton to reinstate building permits city officials revoked in July from Ceebraid for failing to meet certain conditions. In turn, the developer filed a lawsuit against the city to get the permits back in place.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Diana Grub-Freiser told the City Council that a three-way agreement among the potential buyer, the city and Ceebraid would be necessary for the purchase to move forward.
Under the agreement, the city would reinstate the building permits and return Ceebraid's $750,000 construction bond. Ceebraid would drop its two lawsuits against the city. And the buyer would replace the $750,000 bond and move forward with construction.
"[The buyers] indicated they would quickly descend on the project and get it done before the end of the year," City Manager Leif Ahnell said.
But the pending purchase and agreement was met with wariness by both council members and the condo unit owners who have lived in limbo in the midst of an unfinished construction project that has languished for years.
"This is just another rumor," said condo owner Andrew Gay. "We've heard lots of them. We've heard a lot of stories here. I'm interested in results."
Adam Schlesinger, a Ceebraid principal, declined to comment.
Unfulfilled promises and assurances from the developer have led to a deficit of trust.
Eden was conceived as a 200-unit luxury condominium on Palmetto Park Road near City Hall. Plans included a clubhouse with a fitness center and basketball and racquetball courts.
But hurricanes and high construction costs stalled the project. Only one of four buildings is complete.
The City Council extended building permits three times before agreeing with the city staff to revoke them.
In the past, the developer offered to buy back condos from the 27 condo owners. Lately, Ceebraid said, it would convert the condo project into rentals.
In September, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed a lawsuit against the developer accusing it of deceptive and unfair tactics when selling condominiums at Eden.
So after seven years of growing distrust, some council members were hesitant to move forward with the agreement, particularly when they don't know the buyer.
"Personally, I would like to see who we're going to grant those permits to in fear of those buildings sitting another two years vacant," Councilman Anthony Majhess said.
The city manager and city attorney met the buyer last fall and said the buyer was an experienced developer with no connections to Ceebraid. The buyer had financing to finish the project and planned to convert the condominiums into luxury rentals, they said.
That leaves the question of what happens to condo owners.
Unit owners have started receiving new offers from Ceebraid to buy back the condos. Some are accepting the offers, happy to get out, while others are contemplating what to do.
Gay received a new offer but isn't sure if he'll accept.
"I want somebody to come finish the project or buy me out," Gay said. "I want to get what I paid for here."
The City Council decided to let the city attorney move forward with the agreement with both the buyer and Ceebraid.
"People will be better off with a new owner who will continue with construction rather than being left with the current owner and nothing happens," Mayor Susan Whelchel said.