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The jewel was slated to be the first new luxury high-rise to open in downtown Sarasota.
Sarasota Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 5 years ago

Downtown Sarasota condo sidelined by lawsuits

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The 18-story Jewel is more than a year behind schedule, as the developer and contractor trade lawsuits.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

The contractor building The Jewel condo tower in downtown Sarasota is suing the owner and the designer of the 18-story high rise, claiming numerous and unexpected changes have delayed the $50 million project’s completion.

Suffolk Construction Co. maintains multiple changes by owner Main Street J Development Co. and Hoyt Architects have added millions of dollars to its original $23 million contract and sidelined workers at the tower.

“As a result of the owner’s and architect’s inability to provide Suffolk with sufficient design information in a timely manner, Suffolk and the project have been substantially impacted and delayed,” the construction company’s lawsuit states.

Suffolk claims it has been damaged by $6 million.

Main Street J, in turn, filed a lawsuit in Sarasota Circuit Court late last month contending Suffolk failed to submit required paperwork for payment and perform and complete necessary work on the 1301 Main St. building.

The 26-unit, mixed-use project downtown is more than a year behind schedule; it was supposed to be completed no later than October 2015, documents state. Work on the Jewel began in April 2014.

That start date is significant because under the law, developers have two years from the commencement of condominium projects to reach completion. If the two-year deadline is not met, unit buyers are legally able to rescind their commitments to purchase and receive any deposits that have been submitted.

The average sale price of the Jewel’s residential units was about $3 million, which means buyers would have deposited roughly $600,000 to secure one of the 19 units there. All of the Jewel’s residential units have been sold, and only a single commercial space remains available, according to the project’s website.

Sarasota officials issued a “temporary certificate of occupancy” for the Jewel in July, but work has since stopped on the project and the building’s units remain unoccupied. A final “certificate of occupancy” that would signify project completion has yet to be issued.

Suffolk maintains that Hoyt “breached the applicable standard of care” in designing the project, one of the most prominent new residential buildings to be built in downtown Sarasota in the past decade.

Brian McElfatrick, a Tampa attorney representing the design firm, says Hoyt has filed a motion to dismiss the case against the architect that is pending before the court.

“We believe there is no basis in fact for the allegations,” he says, declining further comment.

Main Street J has also filed a motion to dismiss the Suffolk case, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Main Street J president Tom Mannausa nor attorneys representing the project returned telephone calls for comment on the lawsuits. Suffolk attorneys also could not be reached.

In its action against Suffolk, Main Street J states that Suffolk “willfully exaggerated” claims of what it is owed.

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