New owner bringing new life to unfinished Eden condo project
By Dale M. King
BOCA RATON – Something’s happening at the old Eden condominium complex site near downtown Boca Raton that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Construction crews and heavy equipment are at work for the first time in years while the former owner revised plans, sought new financing and complained about a bevy of problems that kept him from completing the development.
Not so any more. Priderock Capital Partners, a West Palm Beach company that specializes in reviving troubled multi-family projects, has purchased the concrete eyesore from the previous owner, Ceebraid-Signal Corp., for a figure said to be in the mid to upper $20 million range.
Workmen moved in almost immediately and began transforming the four-building monstrosity into a work in progress.
The City Council was notified at a recent meeting that the closing on the property has already taken place. Council members were also told that most of the 27 owners who had purchased units in the completed Eden complex were being bought out at the price they had paid for the condos.
The law firm that structured the deal for the new owners, said Priderock paid cash to acquire all but two of the 248 units in the building located just off Palmetto Park Road, across the street from Boca Raton City Hall.
An official from Priderock said Eden, which will be renamed Heritage, will be a luxury apartment rental community.
Ceebraid-Signal managed to finish one of the four buildings it originally planned when the proposal was approved in 2002. A second building was nearly finished, but the other two have stood as concrete skeletons, windows covered with plywood and planks blocking the terraces where fancy fencing had been planned.
Eden was originally envisioned as a luxury condo complex close to the downtown and beaches. It was advertised on an elaborate website that promoted the assets of buying at Eden.
But there was soon trouble in Eden, according to officials who have appeared before the City Council on a number of occasions either to get extensions, to talk about the possibility of new funding or to change plans for the development.
The original morphing of Eden would have changed it into an assisted living project called Pearl. When that didn’t work, another plan was tossed on the table – one that would have turned the condos into luxury apartments.
Charles Siemon, attorney for Eden, once told the council that the project was at the vortex of a “perfect storm” of troubles, including back to back to back hurricanes, the loss of a contractor, inability to get a new contractor and financial troubles.
In September 2007, the City Council held a special meeting and decided, begrudgingly, to issue a final two-year extension of permits. But Ceebraid-Signal was told not to come back for other extensions.
But by 2009, little, if any, new work was done. The council voted last year to cancel the building permits, but the developer hung on, citing Senate Bill 360, a measure that would have given Eden and other troubled building projects an automatic two-year extension because of the stumbling economy.
Ironically, word that a buyer had come forward to buy Eden came to the City Council as a mystery. The purchaser asked not to be identified. A confidentiality agreement between Ceebraid-Signal Corp. and the potential buyer kept secret the terms of the purchase.
Both parties asked the city to reinstate building permits city officials revoked last year City Attorney Diana Grub-Frieser told the City Council that a three-way agreement among the potential buyer, the city and Ceebraid would be necessary for the purchase to move forward.
Council members felt hamstrung by a lack of information, but went forward, hoping the new buyer could finish the development. They received a measure of reassurance from the city manager and city attorney who met the buyer last fall and said the firm was an experienced developer with no connections to Ceebraid.
The buyer had financing to finish the project and planned to convert the condominiums into luxury rentals, they said.
So the council went ahead, reinstated the building permits and returned Ceebraid’s $750,000 construction bond. Ceebraid said it would drop its two lawsuits against the city. And the buyer would replace the $750,000 bond and move forward with construction.
As Mayor Susan Whelchel said at the time, “People will be better off with a new owner who will continue with construction rather than being left with the current owner and nothing happens.”