The Rise of Luxury Condos on Singer Island

April 25, 2011 | News

The_Palm_Beach_PostTwo new luxury condos in Singer Island, Palm Beach County are reeling in rich buyers.

With the winter season almost at an end, condo officials say they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the strong sales these past few months.

Since January, The Ritz-Carlton Residences Singer Island has racked up $30 million in sales, on 17 units. Most of the sales have closed, and many of them have closed for cash, said Carolyn Block Ellert of Meridian Investment Group in Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s more than we’ve anticipated in terms of sales volume,” Block Ellert said.

Recent sales have ranged from $1.1 million to $3.7 million.

The property, formerly known as 2700 North Ocean, was branded a Ritz residence after a Miami company bought 146 unsold units from the project’s builder, Dan Catalfumo, in 2010.

By bringing in the Ritz name, new owners Lionheart Capital LLC hoped to attract global interest among buyers used to the good life. The strategy seems to be working.

Among the recent Ritz buyers: A mini-cluster of private equity and hedge fund professionals from New York and Connecticut. Block Ellert said the hedge fund and private equity buyers are a “stamp of approval” to the property, since financial experts have a global view of the market.

Among the buyers is Michael Psaros, 43, of KPS Capital Partners. The private equity firm is a leader in turning around troubled manufacturing companies.

Psaros said he and his wife, Robin, looked for a number of years for “the perfect place.”

“We think we got a bargain,” Psaros said.

And after a brutal winter in New York, Psaros said the family can’t wait to enjoy their seaside escape, which should be ready by October. “I’ve told the kids they’ll have their Thanksgiving turkey in Florida,” Psaros said.

Meanwhile, noted hedge fund manager Christopher Pia, of Pia Capital Management in Connecticut, paid $2.75 million for a unit at The Ritz Residences, according to county property records.

The new sales, combined with the sales by the previous owner, means The Ritz Residences are close to 50 percent sold, Block Ellert said.

There’s also an international flavor to the ownership pool, with some buyers hailing from Russia or China. Some of these foreign buyers have families with young children, “and a number of aircraft to help get them here,” Block Ellert quipped.

Farther down the coast, Kolter Group of West Palm Beach also is racking up the sales at 4001 North Ocean, the company’s new project on State Road A1A in the town of Gulf Stream.

These buyers aren’t exotic foreigners, but well-heeled people who want to live on the beach near trendy Delray Beach, said Bob Vail of Kolter.

Since sales began earlier this year, Kolter has placed 10 of 34 units under contract, and another two sales are close, Vail said. The strong showing means Kolter next month will start the construction permitting process, with plans to finish the building by the fall of 2012, instead of the previously planned 2013 finish date. “We’re trying to get them in their units for that winter season,” Vail said.

Kolter accelerated the construction schedule because it realized more people would commit to buy if construction really started, Vail said. Given the recent debacle in the real estate market, their hesitation was understandable. “So the only way to overcome the skepticism was go to forward and commit to build it,” Vail said.

Prices range from just under $1.5 million to more than $3 million per unit.

A West Palm Beach company is suing the Seminole Tribe of Florida for what it claims is a broken deal to build an eco-friendly lodge and resort in Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation.

In a little-noticed lawsuit, Everglades Ecolodge at Big Cypress LLC alleges that the Seminole Tribe breached a lease deal that would have allowed Everglades Ecolodge to develop, market and manage the lodge and tourist facility.

Plans were to build 120 guest rooms, suites and villas, a full-service restaurant, meeting facilities and spa on 15 aces of Seminole tribal land.

The lawsuit, filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court late last month, alleges that the Tribal Council passed a resolution in October rescinding a prior resolution approving the 25-year lease deal.

Michael Pike, a West Palm Beach attorney for Everglades Ecolodge, said the Seminole Tribe is bound by the terms of the contract and can’t unilaterally break the deal.

The lawsuit estimates that Everglades Ecolodge has suffered damages in excess of $20 million, including lost profits. In a statement, Everglades EcoLodge’s C. Wendall Collins said he is “mystified” by the tribe’s decision not to honor the deal, which was in the works for five years. “The least the tribe could do was to discuss it with me,” Collins said.

But a Seminole Tribe spokesman said the lawsuit’s claims are unfounded.

After reevaluating a long-term plan for the Big Cypress Reservation, spokesman Gary Bitner said, The Seminole Tribal Council opted to end its discussions with the developer.

“There was no contract because it was never approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which must approve all lease agreements on reservation land,” Bitner said. “The Seminole Tribe has no plans for an ecolodge on the Big Cypress Reservation.”

Written by Alexandra Clough for

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