Trump Tower Woes Mount With Foreclosure Suit

Somewhere, someone must be wagging a finger and announcing, "You're fired." The saga surrounding the Trump International Hotel & Tower on A1A in Fort Lauderdale just keeps getting worse.

Last spring, dozens of buyers filed suits alleging they were duped into believing the marketing hoopla that the Donald was the developer of the tower when he wasn't. Other purchasers were angry to discover that they couldn't move in because not enough people had closed on their units to make the hotel viable.

Now, the lender has filed a foreclosure suit against the developer of the 298-unit

project, SB Hotel Associates. If the suit is successful, buyers who put down tens of thousands of dollars in deposits may once more be screwed.

"They're being told: 'Too bad. It's your money lost,'" says Joseph Altschul, a Broward attorney representing about 55 buyers in a separate suit against the developer.

Altschul's clients are trying to recover their deposit money, some of which was used to construct the still-unfinished building. But lender Corus Construction Venture, which took over when Corus Bank failed last fall, is arguing that according to the purchase agreements, its interest in the project -- a $139 million loan -- should take precedence over the buyer's claims. In other words, the buyers can kiss their cash goodbye.

David Trench, the attorney representing Corus Construction, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Neither did Michele Conte, VP of marketing for the developer.

Altschul says he plans to fight the foreclosure in court. He's worried that Corus Construction, which is run by Starwood Capital, might be trying to turn the property into a full-fledged hotel rather than a building where the units are owned by individuals. That would leave his clients with nothing. He wants to make sure the buyers get their money back, no matter whose name ends up on the building.

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