Don Peebles dropped his three pending claims for $ 160 million, ending his litigation alleging he was duped into expanding into Miami’s Overtown. His decision came after his entity, Overtown Gateway Partners, which filed the lawsuit last year, lost two counts in the case.
After Overtown Gateway ended all of its remaining claims, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman issued a final judgment last week, officially ending the litigation.
The case involved two vacant properties, “Block 55” at 249 Northwest Sixth Street and “Block 45” at 152 Northwest Eighth Street. In 2013, Overtown Gateway won a tender from Miami’s Southeast Overtown / Park West community redevelopment agency to develop the two properties.
Over the next several years, Overtown Gateway – which is also linked to the Peebles project joint venture partner and real estate investor Barron Channer – lost development rights to the land, and the CRA gave developer Michael Swerdlow the blessing of building on one of the lots. .
Swerdlow is building its Sawyer’s Landing project on “Block 55” with 578 affordable apartments for seniors, a Target and an Aldi. “Block 45” returned to Miami-Dade County under a separate city-county agreement, and it remains vacant.
Overtown Gateway disputed how it missed this opportunity, alleging backdoor transactions between some CRA officials and Swerdlow as well as Swerdlow’s partner Alben Duffie.
In March 2020, Overtown Gateway sued Swerdlow, its subsidiary Downtown Retail Associates, and Duffie. Overtown Gateway alleged in the lawsuit that some members of the CRA were in favor of Swerdlow.
In September of that year, Hanzman issued an order quashing Overtown Gateway’s $ 90 million breach of contract claim.
Last August, Hanzman also hit another claim from the entity, for $ 15 million.
In this count, Overtown Gateway alleged that it felt pressured by the CRA to sell its rights to the land to Downtown Retail in Swerdlow and entered into a contract to buy and sell interest in membership (MIPSA) in 2016. Downtown Retail was to pay $ 15 million for land rights. Overtown Gateway accepted the deal because it did not want to lose the money and work it had spent so far planning its development, according to the Overtown Gateway lawsuit.
At the same time, the CRA was delaying vital project approvals for Overtown Gateway, in order to pressure it into making the deal with Downtown Retail, Overtown Gateway has alleged in its lawsuit.
But the deal contained a confidentiality clause prohibiting Swerdlow from discussing the lots with the CRA behind Overtown Gateway’s back. As Swerdlow violated this confidentiality clause, the CRA terminated Overtown Gateway’s rights to the land, according to the complaint.
Hanzman, in his August order, disagreed, saying the confidentiality provision indicated that Overtown Gateway would have a claim if Swerdlow’s alleged secret discussions were the only reason the CRA put end of the rights of Overtown Gateway on the lots. Because there were other reasons involved, including Overtown Gateway’s “voluntary” signing of a “Block 45” termination agreement with the CRA, Overtown Gateway had no claim, Hanzman ruled.
In September, Overtown Gateway abandoned its three remaining accounts. In turn, Swerdlow and Downtown Retail have dropped their counterclaims on how the deal is interpreted.
Overtown Gateway’s attorney and Channer did not respond to a request for comment on why they chose to drop the remaining claims.
Alan Kluger – the attorney for Swerdlow, Duffie and Downtown Retail – praised the outcome, saying the lawsuit had “no merit from the start”.
The case “was brought only to cripple the development of Sawyer’s Landing,” Kluger said in an emailed statement. “With all of Mr. Peebles’ claims now dismissed, the Swerdlow Group can move forward in making a direct and positive impact in Overtown in the form of new jobs, new tax revenues and much-needed affordable housing. “
Sawyer’s Landing is expected to be completed in 2023.