The 2700 North Ocean condominiums on Signer Island

By Alexandra Clough

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Builder Dan Catalfumo has managed to get out from under his 2700 North Ocean condominium on Singer Island in Riviera Beach by selling the project’s unsold units in bulk. And he did it in a way that releases him from a whopping $86 million mortgage – and gives him more than $25 million in cash to boot.

"He did really well," said Kevin Dickenson of Prudential Florida Realty in Palm Beach Gardens.

At a time when many condo developers are losing their properties to foreclosure, Catalfumo’s exit from the clutches of the housing crisis is pretty amazing. It’s also reminiscent of Catalfumo’s amazing victory in a stickier matter some years ago. Some might recall when the millionaire builder was on trial in 2005, accused of beating his then-fiancée, Heather Hill, at his house in 2003. The high-profile case, with its parade of lawyers and sordid allegations of violence, ended with a not guilty verdict by a panel of six jurors.

Back then, Catalfumo’s freedom was at risk. With the 2700 North Ocean deal, the only thing at stake was money. But it was a lot of money, reportedly millions of dollars from Catalfumo’s own wallet.

Now Catalfumo is free to focus on other projects, including the ongoing Ocean Mall mixed-use project, under construction on Singer Island.

For those into schadenfreude (glee at another’s misfortune), Catalfumo still faces problems with his commercial portfolio. Several of his buildings are in foreclosure, including the prominent PGA Design Center in Palm Beach Gardens.

But the 2700 North Ocean sale certainly gives Catalfumo breathing room. It’s also an opportunity for the property’s new owners, who are eager to take hold of this luxury condo.

On June 4, Lionheart Capital LLC of Miami closed on the purchase of 146 units in the 242-unit twin-tower beachfront condo. The $120 million price tag included the assumption of an $86 million mortgage from Fifth Third Bank, more than $25 million in cash paid to Catalfumo, plus various closing costs and commissions.

Lionheart consists of Flagler Group of Miami, a real estate firm with expertise in condo-hotels, plus two investment firms. One is Elliott Management, a prominent New York private investment firm with $16.9 billion in assets under management. The other, OZ Holdings, is a Miami-based private investment firm.

The broker on the deal was Mark Pordes of Pordes Associates in Aventura. Earlier this year, he was selling units at the nearby Marina Grande condominium in Riviera Beach when he said he approached Catalfumo about a possible bulk sale. Pordes said his sister, Mindy, knew of the Flagler Group in Miami, a real estate group with experience in condo-hotels.

At the time, Flagler and OZ were looking for a high-quality condo deal. "It’s a great location, quality construction and the best beachfront property we could find that was available," said Ophir Sternberg, OZ founder and managing partner of Lionheart.

Indeed, Sternberg said he paid Catalfumo millions of dollars above the loan’s value because "we felt Catalfumo had significant equity." Catalfumo was out of town last week and could not be reached for comment.

As for the future, Sternberg said the company still is studying the property, as well as the reasons for the slow sales. Of course, the building’s launch during the midst of the recession in 2008 didn’t help. The property’s condo units also are expensive, ranging from $900,000 to more than $3 million, with some penthouse units in the $7 million range. Lionheart plans to launch a new condo sales campaign in the fall. Sternberg said Lionheart also is looking for other deals in South Florida.

  • The play for the Palm Beach Mall is garnering national interest.

Real estate sources say buyers from coast to coast are ogling the property, now that word has leaked that ORIX doesn’t control all the land at the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard site.

An affiliate of Turbo Investments of Luxembourg recently signed a deal to buy the Dillard’s building, land and parking rights for an undisclosed sum. ORIX, a Japanese financial services group, took control of the rest of the mall through its recent foreclosure of the West Palm Beach property.

Turbo’s presence could delay efforts to redevelop the 90-acre property along Interstate 95 into a "lifestyle center" containing shops and restaurants. This is because Turbo’s investment would have to be bought out before the Dillard’s pad could be redeveloped.

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