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Lawsuit: Blacks Discouraged From Buying Homes at Luxury Condo?

Is the West Palm Beach condo called South Tower CityPlace for white people only?

Yesterday, the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches Inc. announced that it filed a federal lawsuit against Al Coker & Associates, GB West Palm, Gulfstream Capital Partners, and Cervera Real Estate -- the developers and operators of South Tower CityPlace, a luxury high-rise condo on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach.

A spokesperson for CityPlace -- the outdoor retail shopping area -- pointed out that there is no connection between the condo and the shopping center.

Though the announcement did not get into specifics, it hinted that blacks were told there were no units available or were turned away from buying those units during an investigation:

The FHC suit alleges that the Defendants discriminate in the sale of housing on the basis of race/color, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended. The suit arises as a result of a FHC testing investigation, which showed that African-American homeseekers were treated differently from white homeseekers by sales staff at South Tower at CityPlace.

The FHC's enforcement action seeks a declaratory judgment, perma¬nent injunctive relief, and damages for discrimination in the sale of housing against the Defendants for promulgating a reckless and willful policy designed to deceive Black homeseekers and discourage them from purchasing a unit.

Vince Larkins, FHC president/CEO of the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, said, "It's absolutely frightening that in this day and age, financially qualified American citizens still must go through the indignity of being lied to about the availability of upscale real-estate for homeownership, solely based on the color of their skin." He said his organization "will not tolerate this behavior and will bring to justice all those that continue to carry out these illegal practices."

Attorneys -- Reed Colfax and Tara K. Ramchandani in Washington, D.C., and Attorney E. Lesleigh Varner in West Palm Beach -- announced that they are seeking more plaintiffs to join the suit and that anyone "who believes they have been discriminated against at South Tower at CityPlace may call the FHC's toll-free hotline, at 1-877-910-FAIR."

Send story tips to Deirdra.Funcheon@BrowardPalmBeach.com

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