For years, a giant hotel project has sat partially-finished on one of the most prime pieces of real estate in Broward County. The beachfront property located at 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. was originally branded as a Donald Trump project but got tied up in financial problems and lawsuits.
Now under new developers, it is set to become the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Resort and Residences -- a 290-room hotel/condo hybrid scheduled to open its doors in the summer of 2015.
The unit was formally tapped to be the next extravagant Trump International Hotel & Tower project, with a grand opening pegged for sometime in 2009, but that never happened. The project was riddled with ligation before it was ever was able to open and eventually was foreclosed on. Once it was in foreclosure, hospitality operator Hilton Worldwide purchased the vacant address for $115 million and signed an agreement with CFLB Partnership LLC to open and operate under the new Conrad Resorts title. CFLB Partnership also owns the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort property nearby.
Developers of the new property sitting at 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. believe they have improved the building since inheriting the Trump project shell. "The previous design was more cooperate than resort-like," developers told New Times. "The previous building had a small pool terrace and limited corporate facilities, but our new design and programming with enable us to cover all the deficiencies we inherited, while at the same time offering an ocean-inspired building and design."
After a $34 million enhancement, the property now includes a fitness center, a Conrad Spa, a swimming pool, a porte-cochere entrance with 24-hour valet service, a new lobby, a dramatic glass-encased area connecting the resort property's two towers three stories above ground level, a ballroom, and an oceanfront restaurant. Prices for units in the luxurious building start at $500,000.
Trump, meanwhile, continues to deal with the backlash from the original prospective tenants angry that they were duped into investing in a Trump building only for him to pull his name off of it at the very end.The plaintiffs were suing for more than $250,000 after Trump backed out of the project. Trump countered, saying he was in fact never the developer; rather, he says, he only licensed the use of his name to the original developer, SB Associates, to boost the condo-hotel's image and marketability. However, lawsuits citing violations of licensing agreement terms, including the default on a $139 million loan, continue to list him as a defendant.
Recently, a jury found Trump not guilty of deceptive business practices in the civil lawsuit concerning the Trump International Hotel & Tower.
Trump, however, still faces a similar lawsuit that includes 81 plaintiffs demanding the return of $8 million in unreturned deposits due to the same deception. A resolution to this case is expected toward the end of the year.
The turmoil surrounding the now Conrad Fort Lauderdale Resort property is just the latest lawsuit Trump has found himself defending against. The real estate mogul has been accused of unethical business practices quite frequently of late, including:
-- The New York's attorney general sued Donald Trump for $40 million, claiming Trump helped run a phony "Trump University", that promised to provide tips for students trying to strike it rich, but in reality only charged them for expensive seminars. At the seminars "Trump Elite" mentorships ranging from $10,000 to $35,000 were pushed.
-- Two prospective buyers of a condominium at Trump Park in Yorktown filed a lawsuit this past August claiming Trump refused to refund their down payment. William and Margaret Primavera placed a ten-percent $44,500 down payment on a unit at the Trump Park Residences, but failed to secure a mortgage for the $445,000 unit, even after being directed to the Trump project when applying for the loan. When the couple asked for their money back, Trump Park Residences and Cappelli Enterprises allegedly refused.
-- In 2013, Trump was sued by a group of investors that claim he tricked them into buying condos at his Trump Chicago skyscraper by promising profit-sharing, but backtracked on those promises once the units sold. Trump maintained that he was not aware of the pulling of the profit sharing program early on, but signed off on it once learning of it's existence.
-- In 2011, Trump was sued by buyers who lost millions of dollars in deposits on a hotel-condo project in the Mexican city of Tijuana. At least 69 buyers purchased 71 units in Trump Ocean Resort Baja and paid deposits totaling between $18 million and $20 million. When the project hit snags and fell through, buyers were told that the project was being scrapped and that there was no money left to return deposits.
"We've updated the design and the lifestyle experience of the prestigious Conrad Hotel brand, including four new dynamic and diverse food & beverage concepts," developers of the new Conrad Fort Lauderdale Resort and Residences tell New Times.
For more information about the Conrad Beach Residences of Fort Lauderdale, visit their penthouse sales gallery, located on the 24th floor of the property, or contact them at 954-749-7200. You can also visit their website at MyConradResidence.com.