The developer of Stamford’s Highgrove condos is being sued in Florida by that state’s attorney general for failure to complete a project in Boca Raton.
Ceebraid-Signal Corp. was named in a lawsuit filed Friday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court along with Jason Schlesinger, a principal of Ceebraid who works in Stamford.
Schlesinger led Ceebraid’s development of Highgrove, a 92-unit building on Forest and Grove streets that includes condos priced in the multimillion-dollar range. It is slated to open this fall.
In Florida, Schlesinger’s company marketed and sold condos at a four-building project called Eden Condominium. The development was only partially completed, and about a year ago, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum opened an investigation into the company and its owners.
The resulting lawsuit contends the consumers and 27 owners “suffered significant financial damage as their units are unsalable and otherwise of minimal value,” according a story published Friday in the Palm Beach Post.
Schlesinger could not be reached for comment last week. But Mark Bideau, an attorney for Ceebraid, denounced the charges.
“We were surprised by the lawsuit,” Bideau said in a telephone interview Saturday. “It really has no merit. It’s legally and factually wrong. We are going to defend against it vigorously.”
That’s encouraging on its face but the details that follow are gloomier.
Bideau said that instead of condominiums, Ceebraid was now planning to build apartments, eventually.
The company has contracts to buy out the 27 owners at the prices they each paid.
“Financing is not easy these days,” Bideau said. “As soon as they get the financing, that’s the plan.”
However, the lawsuit will make it more difficult to get the financing, he said.
In Stamford, Highgrove is said to be nearing completion, though sales are reportedly slow. Designed by famed architect Robert A.M. Stern, the building is expected to set a bar in high-end design and luxury amenities, including a 24-hour concierge service.
This past spring, Highgrove tried enticing buyers by offering rent-free living accommodations in nearby rental apartments owned by the developer as they await completion of construction.
But the market for such luxury condominiums has collapsed, according to Martin Nirschel, a local real estate agent for Sotheby’s International Realty.
“There has been such a shift in the dynamic of the market that this has become an awfully hard sell,” Nirschel said. “The recent spate of bad publicity certainly doesn’t help the cause.”
The condo market in Boca Raton is different from Stamford’s, or it used to be, but this can’t be encouraging news for those who have put down money on the HighGrove project. And, while on the topic, a reader who visits Stamford more frequently than I (anyone who travels to Stamford once a year visits there more than I) reports that the F.D. Rich/Trumps condos near Bloomingdales seem to have stalled. Any news on that? And how’s that Havemeyer Lane thing doing? They seem to still be building, but no reports of sales reported on the Greenwich MLS in ages. Hmmm.
UPDATE: Here’s a blogger who expressed skepticism about Trump’s prospects back in April. The comments are dubious too, but so far as I can see, no updates since then. WARNING – JUST INFORMED THAT THAT LINK TO “MR. STAMFORD BLOG” HAS A VIRUS ATTACHED. I’ve broken the link, and I apologize. It didn’t show up on my Mac so no alarms went off. If you hit the link earlier, please beware.
UPDATE II: No sooner do I say that I’ve seen no sales activity reported on the Havemeyer project than one unit is reported as “pending”. Now you can take this with two grains of salt: one, “pending” is not “contract” – someone has signed a piece of paper loaded with contingencies that may or may not be met. Two, a suspicious mind in this office suggests that, under the terms of most commercial construction loans, some sales activity must be evidenced each quarter to keep the loan from defaulting. Was the last “sale” reported three months ago? I’ll go check.