We are proud to represent many of the businesses that have contributed to Florida’s growth over the last forty years. Our clients range from small start-ups to some of the largest multinational corporations in the world, as well as some of the country’s most successful individuals and entrepreneurs. We have the practical business sense to resolve complex legal problems and to understand the impact of the law and the regulatory environment on our clients' businesses. We believe that our clients’ success is our business.
Financing of South Miami-Dade Multifamily Development
We recently represented Banesco USA in the $34 million financing of Estate Investments Group LLC’s latest Palmetto Bay project, the Soleste Bay Village apartment complex. The 211-unit, five-story building is part of a larger plan to foster infrastructure investment in the area, spur development, and turn the South Miami-Dade neighborhood into a walkable downtown. The project is in an opportunity zone, a government-designated, economically distressed area that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act offers tax breaks to investors under the December 2017 law. However, the incentive does not apply to Estate Investments, which committed to Soleste Bay Village before the law passed. Estate Investments has finished and sold three projects in this area and is building two others. Read more in the Daily Business Review.
Successfully Defended Amendment to Florida Constitution
As General Counsel, represented the Florida Association for Constitutional Officers in the Florida Supreme Court to defend and successfully preserve Amendment 10 to the Florida Constitution, which will appear on the November general election ballot. Amendment 10 would require all five county constitutional officers (sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of circuit court) to be elected in each of Florida’s 67 counties, and prevent local governments from abolishing, appointing or otherwise altering these constitutional offices. Three Florida counties that have implemented alternative systems, including Volusia, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, led the unsuccessful challenge to prevent Florida’s electorate from voting on Amendment 10. Read more in the Miami Herald
$100 Million Class Action Settlement
Our litigation team achieved a $100 million settlement on behalf of a 179-member class of real estate investors. The agreement settled claims that CBRE, one of the largest commercial real estate services and investment firms in the world, and one of its employees, aided executives from Cabot Investment Properties LLC in a multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme that lost our clients $84M worth of investments in six Florida office buildings that CBRE managed. Read the Law360 article here.
$14.5 MILLION SALE OF METROMALL BUILDING IN MIAMI’S JEWELRY DISTRICT
Our team represented Metromall Partners, LTD (“Metromall”) in the $14.5 million sale of the Metromall Building located at 1 N.E. 1st Street in the heart of downtown Miami’s jewelry district. The sale included the assignment of a 99-year ground lease executed in 1945. Metromall was the tenant under the ground lease and the owner of the adjacent parcel on which a portion of the building was located. The Metromall Building has a rich retail history in the City of Miami and was the site of the first department store in Miami known as Cromer Cassel founded by the family of Marwin Cassel, founder of the Broad and Cassel law firm. It was later turned into the Richards Department Store. Click here to view a report of the Metromall Building’s history.
The “landlord” was comprised of three unrelated individuals who held their ownership interests as tenants in common in the portion of the property that was subject to Metromall’s ground lease. Two of the landlord-owners inherited their interests and the third purchased his interest at a bankruptcy sale. The landlord-owners could not agree on a marketing strategy and sale price for the combined parcels. Because our client, Metromall, as owner of the corner parcel and lessee under the ground lease, had the largest interest in the two parcels, it ultimately developed the successful marketing strategy that resulted in the sale of the two parcels. Stearns Weaver led the “sellers” side of the deal and closed the transaction on their behalf. The buyers were led by Yair Levy of Time Century Holdings, a New York entity. Time Century plans to renovate the Metromall Building into a luxury jewelry center.
$936K in Attorneys' Fees Awarded to Benihana
Judge Paul Engelmayer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York recently awarded longtime client Benihana $936K in attorneys’ fees on Benihana, Inc.’s trademark counterclaim against Benihana of Tokyo (BOT) and Keiko Aoki individually. Our litigation team has successfully defended Benihana in more than 10 disputes and appeals brought by BOT from 2012 to 2018, and, to date, has obtained multiple judgments for injunctive relief and nearly $3 million in attorneys’ fees for the client.
$2.2 Million Victory For Aircraft Charter Company
Successfully obtained $2.2 million final judgment on behalf of an aircraft charter company in breach of contract action by successfully arguing on summary judgment that liquidation clause was valid and enforceable.
Clean Bill of Health for Client After Extensive OFCCP Audit
Represented a federal contractor in a compliance review of its headquarters location by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), part of the U.S. Department of Labor. During the compliance review, the OFCCP requested extensive documentation on the contractor’s affirmative action plan, outreach efforts, workplace policies and compensation for all 400 plus employees for a one year period, and also interviewed the compensation manager about the company’s compensation policies and practices. After many months, the OFCCP closed the compliance review, stating that it found “no apparent violations” of the applicable regulations, laws and Executive Order 11246.
$53 Million Sale of The Queue Apartments in Fort Lauderdale
Represented 9th Street Property LLC, a joint venture between Urban Street Development and Fazio Properties, in the $53 million sale of The Queue Apartments in Fort Lauderdale. Completed last year, the seven-story building contains 191 units, a mix of studios and one-to three-bedroom units, ranging from 529 to 1,275 square feet.
Watson Island Developers Prevail in Lawsuit against City of Miami
Represented Flagstone Island Gardens LLC and Flagstone Development Corporation in a suit against the City of Miami in connection with Flagstone’s right to develop and lease a $1.2 billion mixed-used hotel, retail and marina project on Watson Island. Flagstone won the bid to develop in 2001 and subsequently obtained financing. However the market crash in 2007 caused investors to walk out on the project. In 2010, the City and Flagstone amended the agreement to include longer time periods to commence and complete development in phases. Throughout this period, a group of community activists opposed to the project started a campaign to block the project, filing lawsuits and submitting numerous letters to city officials. Building permits that should have been granted were stalled and the City Commission, led by Commissioner Russell, declared Flagstone in default. Flagstone sued to declare that there was no default and seek damages for the City’s breach of the agreements. The case was bifurcated between liability and damages. After a 7-day bench trial on liability, Judge William Thomas entered a 27-page order finding against the City and in favor of Flagstone on every disputed issue. While not addressed by the Court in this phase of the litigation, Flagstone offered evidence that it has invested more than $120 million in the project.
BBX defeats shareholder lawsuit. Decision may reduce Florida merger litigation.
Represented a publicly-traded holding company, BFC Financial Corporation, now BBX Capital Corporation, its subsidiaries, and certain officers and directors in 10 shareholder class actions, 8 of which were resolved with defendants paying no money to the plaintiffs. Included in those was the dismissal with prejudice of a complaint seeking to challenge the merger of BFC and BBX valued at over $250 million because the Florida appraisal statute provided the exclusive remedy, which has since been affirmed by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Massive development will transform South Tampa's skyline
Represented BTI, one of Florida’s leading real estate investors, land owners, developers and asset management firms, in land use and environmental issues related to the development of Westshore Marina District (formally New Port Tampa Bay). This is the second largest new development project in Tampa Bay today. Construction crews recently broke ground on this $600 million large-scale project and predict that it will be finished by 2020. It will rest on 55 acres of the Tampa Bay waterfront and will include 200+ marina slips, a hotel, retail shops, boat-up restaurants, a public esplanade connected to a 1.4-mile public park and 1,250 apartments and condos.
2017 Hotel Acquisition Financing for Client Driftwood Hospitality
In 2017, represented Driftwood Hospitality and Driftwood Acquisition & Development in the acquisition financing for The Hilton Durham hotel, The Hampton Inn Daytona Beach, The DoubleTree by Hilton St. Augustine, The Marriott Park City, The Tan-Tar-A Resort, The Hilton Dallas Rockwall and The Sheraton Detroit Novi.
Financing for affordable housing community in downtown Jacksonville
Represented Vestcor, a real estate company focused on developing multifamily projects, in securing construction financing and tax credit equity totaling over $30.1 million for the Lofts at Monroe, an affordable community in the LaVilla neighborhood in downtown Jacksonville. The five-story building aims to create a uniquely urban community.
Litigation Team Prevails in Chipotle "GMO" Suit
Served as Florida counsel for Chipotle Mexican Grill in both the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit. The plaintiff complained on behalf of herself and other Floridians, that Chipotle violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and was unjustly enriched by falsely advertising that it had eliminated genetically modified ingredients (known as “GMOs”) from its menu. The Eleventh Circuit issued a per curiam opinion affirming the District Court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Chipotle. The Eleventh Circuit denied rehearing.
Land Development team resolves annexation challenge and administrative challenge to comprehensive plan amendment for developer clients
Counsel in resolving an annexation challenge and an administrative challenge to a comprehensive plan amendment for a coalition of developer clients with projects at risk due to a long-running dispute between Alachua County and the City of Gainesville. Successfully negotiated with the County and the City for a global settlement allowing clients to move forward with projects that had been stalled for over six months and which were at risk of being delayed for another year or more.
Financing and acquisition of affordable housing development, Timber Sound Apartments
Represented Timber Sound Preservation, L.P., an affiliate of Lincoln Avenue Capital LLC, in its financing and acquisition of a 240 unit affordable housing development in Orange County, Florida known as Timber Sound Apartments.
Litigation and Environmental teams prevail in administrative challenge to an ERP issued to client All Aboard Florida
Prevailed in administrative hearing challenging Environmental Resource Permit Modification issued to client All Aboard Florida. Following a lengthy proceeding, the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings issued a Recommended Order which found for All Aboard Florida on all issues and endorsed the permit under review. The permit is for a portion of an express passenger rail system which will connect the four largest urban population centers in Southern and Central Florida - Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. The passenger service will be known as Brightline and is scheduled to begin operating between Miami and West Palm Beach later this year. The Recommended Order contains the most thorough analysis to date on the issue of whether the first element of the public interest test permits consideration of non-environmental factors and provides more predictability and clarity as to the application of the public interest criteria.
Labor & Employment Team Obtains Summary Judgment For Multinational Food Distributor
Obtained summary judgment victory in federal court for multinational food distributor against former employee seeking overtime wages due to alleged misclassification under the FLSA’s Motor Carrier Exemption.
Litigation Team Obtains Order of Contempt In Favor of Longtime Client Benihana.
Stearns Weaver Miller recently obtained an order of contempt in favor of Benihana, Inc. against Benihana of Tokyo (BOT) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Our team has successfully defended Benihana in more than 10 disputes and appeals brought by BOT from 2012 to 2017, and, to date, Benihana has been awarded in excess of $1.2 million in attorneys' fees.
13th Floor Investments acquires $19.5 million site in Miami’s Upper East Side
Represented 13th Floor Investments in the $19.5 million acquisition of a 2.2 acre site in Miami’s Upper East Side. The site, located at 5700 Biscayne Boulevard, was acquired in an all-cash deal through a partnership between 13th Floor and Tricera Capital. The partnership plans to break ground in early 2018 on an apartment and retail project.
BBX Capital Corporation acquires national candy retailer
Represented BBX Capital Corporation in the acquisition of IT’SUGAR for a purchase price of approximately $57 million, net of cash acquired. IT’SUGAR is the largest specialty candy retailer in the United States with 95 locations in 26 states. The acquisition expands BBX Capital’s retail confectionary footprint, which includes Hoffman’s Chocolates.
D.R. Horton, Inc. acquires 20-acre site in Miami-Dade County
Represented national homebuilder, D.R. Horton, Inc., in the $11.9 million acquisition of 140 single-family home lots in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The 20-acre site near the Homestead Air Reserve Park was sold by an affiliate of Adrian Homes.
10-year litigation ends in major victory for Alan Levan and BBX Capital
Read the Law360 article here.
Acquisition of Ocean Mall in Riviera Beach, Florida
Represented a joint venture between Duncan Hillsley Capital and Pebb Enterprises in its acquisition of Ocean Mall, a shopping center in Riviera Beach, Florida, and the financing for the acquisition. The center comprises several low-rise ocean-front buildings on leased land owned by the City of Riviera Beach. The seller had acquired the ground lease by foreclosing the interests of the original developer. We also helped to obtain the City’s consent to the conveyance of the ground lease, which could not be conveyed without that consent. Given the importance of the project to the City, the consent process required several in-person meetings with City officials and staff and several City council hearings.
$66.5 million construction loan for San Francisco multifamily project
Represented Rescore Corp., a private REIT, in securing $66.5 million in construction financing for the development of a 9-story residential tower with 160 rental units in the heart of San Francisco’s Mid-Market area. The financing includes senior debt provided by Pacific Western Bank and mezzanine debt from Square Mile Capital.
Acquisition and financing for beachfront hotel in Hillsboro Beach, Florida
Represented BH3 Asset Management LLC in connection with the acquisition and financing of a beachfront hotel in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. The Firm’s representation included negotiating a complex joint venture agreement and construction and mezzanine financing, and working with six other law firms to accomplish an expedited closing.
Pro Bono Team Goes the Distance
Successfully represented a pro bono client who had been tricked into signing a quit claim deed giving up title to half of his house. After 3 years of contentious litigation, obtained summary judgment on claims of quiet title and breach of contract, recovering clear title to the client’s home of more than 30 years. Read The Florida Bar Journal article here.
Affordable Housing team helps client raise $71.5 million in bonds on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
Represented the Cornerstone Group, one of the largest affordable housing developers in the country, in its issuance of $71.5 million in corporate debentures on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Read the Daily Business Review article here.
Financing for affordable housing community serving adults with disabilities
Quest, Inc., is a non-profit organization that serves individuals with developmental disabilities throughout Orlando and Tampa. We represented Quest in securing construction financing and tax credit syndication totaling $16.8 million for Quest Village, an affordable apartment community for independent adults with developmental disabilities. It will be the first of its kind in central Florida.
Securities Class Action Dismissed
Obtained dismissal of a securities class action against client Erba Diagnostics, Inc. and certain of its current and former directors and officers. Our team successfully argued that the plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient for the court to draw an inference that the defendants acted with the “scienter,” i.e., intent to deceive, necessary for a plaintiff to establish liability under Rule 10b-5. The court dismissed plaintiff’s case.
Victory impacts agricultural landowners statewide
Represented a breeder of exotic birds in Palm Beach County, Florida, in a case that is important for agricultural landowners statewide. Successfully appealed a circuit court ruling that denied our client the agricultural tax classification known as “greenbelting.” The Fourth DCA granted the tax classification, resulting in substantially lower tax assessments for our client, and numerous land use and environmental protections and exemptions.
Bank grants $55.9 million in loans to developer
Represented Santander Bank in connection with two loans totaling $55.9 million to developer Copperline Partners for the acquisition and renovation of Harbor Inn Apartments, a 310-unit apartment complex in Coral Springs, Florida, and Marsh Harbour Apartments, a 168-unit apartment complex in Sunrise, Florida.
Gencom acquires luxury resort in Costa Rica
Represented real estate investment group Gencom in the acquisition of a luxury resort in Costa Rica’s tourist hotspot of Guanacaste. The acquisition of Peninsula Papagayo Resort includes the Four Seasons Papagayo Hotel, a golf course, marina and beaches.
$151 million antitrust class action settlement
Jay Shapiro and team obtained a landmark $151 million antitrust class action settlement on behalf of indirect purchasers of polyurethane foam. This was the fourth largest antitrust recovery ever on behalf of an indirect purchaser class.
Construction Team turns lawsuit into $1.1 million victory
Obtained a $1.1 million verdict, plus award of attorneys fees and costs, as lead counsel in a month long jury trial on behalf of a construction firm fraudulently induced into a fixed price contract, successfully turning a breach of contract lawsuit against contractor into a favorable verdict on counterclaims.
$95 million loan for longtime client’s luxury waterfront condominium project
Represented a joint venture between 13th Floor Investments and Key International in connection with the $30.5 million acquisition and subsequent $95 million construction loan for The Harbour condominium project, a twin-tower, 425-unit luxury waterfront condominium located in North Miami Beach.
Apartment project brings affordable housing to Overtown, Miami
Assisted affordable housing developer, St. John Community Development Corporation and the CDP Companies, in the closing of the development and financing for St. John Plaza, a 90-unit apartment complex in Overtown, Miami. The project was financed through multiple sources, including bonds issued by the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the Housing Finance Authority of Miami-Dade County.
$10 million private placement for medical diagnostics company
Represented medical diagnostics company in a $10 million private placement of convertible promissory notes.
Our client is a rapid assay medical diagnostics company, with products that use a drop of blood to test for a variety of conditions, illnesses and diseases and that achieve results in a matter of minutes, eliminating the need to send tests to off-site laboratories.
Goodwill facility to provide jobs for individuals with disabilities
Obtained a zoning modification on behalf of Piedmont Companies, a developer of Goodwill Industries projects across the country. The 212,000 square foot facility in Hillsborough County will serve a 10-county area, employing over 100 individuals with disabilities and special needs. It is Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, Inc.’s first "build to suit" distribution center in its central Florida territory and will be used as a model for future facilities.
Victory for City of Marathon, Florida
Represented the City of Marathon, Florida, in a breach of performance bond lawsuit against a surety involving two components of $120 million public works project. Successfully obtained judgment in federal court for excess completion cost damages, attorneys' fees and costs.