Developer Who Wants to Move Rain Tree Is Embroiled in Legal Woes With Former Partners

Developer Asi Cymbal became public enemy number one for Fort Lauderdale environmentalists, and for people who love trees and nature in general, when he announced he would dig up and attempt to relocate a 100-year-old rain tree to make way for a gaudy 960-unit apartment complex called Marina Lofts on the New River. (OK, some people characterize it as an amazing project by a star architect, Bjarke Ingels.)

The proposal was met with protests, but Cymbal was ultimately given permission by the city to proceed with his project.

But lately, Cymbal has gotten into a little brouhaha with his partners in a separate project in Miami -- Design 41, a mixed-use building in the Design District designed by another star architect, Enrique Norten. He was recently given the boot from the project (improperly, he claims) and, in response, filed a lawsuit asking for the project to be broken up and liquidated.

The trees know what you did, Asi. THEY KNOW.

As the South Florida Business Journal explains, Cymbal was part of a partnership that acquired the Design 41 property, located at 112-130 N.E. 41st St. In 2010, when banks were not lending, Benjamin "Roy" Norton told Cymbal he would help in securing financing to develop the site.

Cymbal's company sold the project to Design District Development Partners (DDDP) for $1.86 million in 2011. Norton was one of five managers on DDDP's board. Another slot on the board went to a company called BH18, which appointed Cymbal. Cymbal's company, A&C Builders, AKA Cymbal Development, was chosen as the builder of the project.

But according a lawsuit filed by Cymbal, "Norton had apparently exhausted the financing he secured for the project" and went four months without paying Cymbal's company as the builder.

Now an ugly divorce of the former partners is taking place. In September, Cymbal Development filed a lawsuit against DDDP, as the Business Journal reports, "seeking to foreclose on $1.2 million in construction liens for its work on the project." In December, members of the DDDP board voted to remove Cymbal (in a meeting that Cymbal contends was illegal). DDDP claimed in a statement "that Cymbal Development was terminated for nonperformance, mismanagement and Cymbal misrepresenting himself as the owner of the project to contractors."

See also: Five Reasons Marina Lofts Should Be Nixed (And the Rain Tree Saved)

Now Cymbal is fighting back. He has filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court against his ex-partners, seeking to dissolve the group and place Design 41 into receivership. Cymbal told the Business Journal he hopes to eventually get control of the property and develop it himself.

DDDP's reaction to the suit came in the form of a brief statement:

"Cymbal's desperate attempts to appear to create a controversy over corporate control of DDDP are rejected as baseless and improper."

Could Cymbal's legal woes be a spark to put an end to Fort Lauderdale's Marina Lofts project and, therefore, save the 100-year-old rain tree?


Still, it's food for thought.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph