Enrique Norten’s Fabulous South Beach Spot

 

NORTEN Header
Rendering of glass palace at 321 Enrique Norten

 

 

ENRIQUE NORTEN’S FABULOUS SPOT ON SOUTH BEACH

Systemic Corruption Suspected in Spot Zoning for High Class Folk

28 July 2014

By David Arthur Walters
Miami Mirror

321 Ocean Enrique Norten in South Beach was not spot zoned for the benefit of middle-class permanent residents, but for the exclusive benefit of the likes of its New York owners and developers and their international jet-set clients who can well afford to invest millions of U.S. dollars in each condo, most likely their second or third home, or to speculate with money fleeing from other jurisdictions.

We may never know where the seed money for the 321 Enrique Norten project came from or its amount since the identity of the partners (“members”) in 321 Ocean Drive LLC, the registered foreign limited liability company that holds the title to the land, is a secret, as is the identity of the partners in its listed managing member, 321 Ocean Holding LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation unregistered in Florida except with the City of Miami Beach as a lobbyist. A local limited liability company registered in Florida, 321 Ocean Manager LLC, was apparently set up to further shield the operators. If the condominium law of Florida were properly drafted in the public interest, the names of all the natural persons who own over a 10% stake in and/or otherwise control the artificial persons presently established to shield their identity and liability would be public record placed online.

The developers, David Arditi, Joshua Benaim and Tim Gordon of the Aria Development Group, studied and worked in finance together on the East Side of New York City. Arditi’s parents, who control Miami’s Cardinal Development, have thirty years experience of local real estate experience. The developers have advertised their expertise at funding developments with the deposits of condo buyers; a tactic that burned depositors became all too familiar with when Miami was Ground Zero in the last financial meltdown. In any event, the seed money required for a condominium development is way beyond the means of most developers so they must borrow from banks. David Arditi, when asked, “Is bank financing important to your business strategy, specifically with regard to condo development?” said that, “In the past two years, we have consummated five transactions, all of them on an all-cash basis.” (16 August 2013 South Florida Business Journal)

As for the Delaware managing member of the Miami Beach land owner, Delaware asks for the least information of all states, providing anonymity that even offshore jurisdictions do not provide. The New York Times observed in a 30 June 2012 article that, “Big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse — all have turned up at Delaware addresses in hopes of minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks. Federal authorities worry that, in addition to the legitimate businesses flocking here, drug traffickers, embezzlers and money launderers are increasingly heading to Delaware, too. It’s easy to set up shell companies here, no questions asked.”

Delaware vies with offshore financial jurisdictions to be the most secretive jurisdiction in the world. Two million corporations and limited liability companies are formed in the United States each year in states that do not require revelation of the beneficial owners. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Chuck Grassley have attempted to get a law passed that would require states to obtain lists of beneficial owners of corporations and limited liability companies formed under their laws. Of course the American Bar Association objected, on the grounds that it would be too costly, undermine the attorney-client privilege, and interfere with state regulation of attorneys.

It is interesting to note here that David M. Arditi, in his capacity as managing member of 321 Ocean Manager LLC, in a letter dated 1 July 2011, informed the mayor and commissioners of the City of Miami Beach that, that it would be sad if he and his fellow developers do not get their way so they can become permanent members of the community, yet at least they would leave something positive behind. For example, “We brought in foreign investors to restore the contributing historic buildings at 304 Ocean Drive and 205 Collins Avenue.”

 

NORTEN Collins Avenue
Blighted 304 Ocean Drive in 2014

The 304 Ocean Drive building is directly across the street from 321 Ocean Drive. It has not been restored. In fact, it has been and continues to be a nuisance in terms of appearance and code violations.

 

NORTEN Code violaitons
Handsomely Renovated 205 Collins Avenue

Annette Schiffler Marciano is the presiding officer or manager of the owners of 304 Ocean Drive and 205 Collins Avenue: 304 South Beach LLC and 205 Collins LLC. In a 7 July 2011 letter to the mayor and commissioners, wherein she represented herself as an “ardent preservationist” and urged them not to approve of a citywide charter amendment pressed by Mayor Bower that would require local voters to approve of zoning amendments raising height requirements, which would allow the development of 321 Ocean Enrique Norten, she said, “I first acquired the Atlantic Air Apartments located at 205 Collins, currently undergoing a full renovation. I subsequently acquired the dilapidated contributing property located at 304-312 Ocean Drive. I will begin a full restoration by year end and return the property to its original splendor…. Please do not kill this project with a sweeping charter amendment that few property owners and residents are aware is even up for debate.”

Schiffler did not respond to my communication of 8 April 2014: “The renovation of 205 Collins Avenue is indeed splendid. However, the 304-312 Ocean Drive property remains sorely blighted, and a check of the city’s Code Compliance records indicate it has been a nuisance property in terms of code violations. That is, it has not been returned to ‘original splendor’ nearly three years after your testimony, which was used to support a spot zoning amendment to allow a mammoth structure to be placed in between two low condominiums on the beach across the street from your Ocean Drive property. I will deeply appreciate hearing from you as to why 304-312 Ocean Drive has not yet been developed, and when you expect work to begin and be completed. Also, it will interest my readers to know who the ‘foreign investors’ are, and what their relationship with the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten developers is. My deadline for this portion of the story is April 15.”

In fact, according to the county appraiser’s records, Schiffler recently flipped the property in August 2013, gaining her secret investors $2.260 million, and it is presently owned by Sea Spray Development LLC, managed by Hollywood developer and investment bankers,, Yair Wolff, and Tamir Lubezky, an Israeli. They operate under cover W Capital Group, a vulture capitalist organization they apparently founded around 2009 to take advantage of the Great Recession.

 

NORTEN Great Recession
320 Ocean is nicely preserved, why not 304 Ocean? (from rear)

Wolff and Lubezky, with Luis Revuelta, the architect playing second fiddle to starchitect Enrique Norten across the street at 321 Ocean, in tow, are playing the same historical “preservation” game as the Enrique Norten developers: Get your existing structures declared unsafe and entirely demolished, and then persuade the preservation board, after the fact, to allow a luxurious structure to replace it although it has nothing to do with Miami Beach’s quaint history as a poor man’s Art Deco paradise.

 

NORTEN Art Deco paradise
Luis Revuelta’s plan for 304-312 Ocean Drive

That is exactly Wolff and Lubezky have recently applied for at 304-312 Ocean Drive, complete demolition of the “former” 3-story apartment building. On the other hand, an old building adjacent on the property at 320, similar to the one sitting at 304 Ocean Drive, is being preserved and has been nearly renovated by unlicensed general contractor Jihad Doujeiji, husband to the late Sharon Lewis, a famed interior design, under an arrangement he described (hearsay) as a nontaxable like-kind exchange with his accountant. An accountant by the name of Michael A. Rauf appears as the secretary of 3157 Inc., the current owner of 320 Ocean Drive, the former owner, 320 Ocean Drive LLC, being controlled by the Doujeiji. Doujeiji is known among very wealthy persons for getting work done well at low cost; however, the renovation of 321 Ocean Drive drags on and on because he has other contracts to fulfill upon which cash will be immediately paid. As for licensing, when prohibited from using his deceased wife’s general contracting license, he rented licenses from other contractors to observe the permitting formality, or he proceeded without permits, on millions of dollars of renovations, including a million dollar renovation of a Sunset Harbour penthouse. When asked to recover fees uncollected due to understated contract valuations and unpermitted work, city officials did not respond.

The previous owner of 304-312 Ocean Drive, Project Madison LLC, certainly did not think 304-12 Ocean Drive was unsafe when they picked up the property in 2009. In 2010 they applied for permission for “partial demolition renovation and restoration of the existing two (2) and three (3) story building, including the construction of a new roof top addition, and the construction of a new 3-story structure on the vacant portion of the site, as part of a new hotel project.”

Now all that is not to say that the persons invested in the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten are scoundrels or worse, or that developers are generally “scum of the earth” and their lawyers “suck,” as is popularly believed. It is just to say that there are good reasons for everyone to know who the natural persons foreign and domestic invested in major developments in their communities are. Again, the personal identities of substantially beneficial owners, and the financial managers of substantial investments in the aggregate, should be publicly disclosed. As for attorneys, lists of all the clients of all attorneys licensed in the state should be a public record filed quarterly.

The sale of the 321 Enrique Norten penthouse alone, for $25 million, is expected to more than pay for the stated $18 million cost of the entire development. Although Tom C. Murphy, who controls the Coastal Condominium Construction Group building the project, and who testified in favor of the spot zoning and then got the contract to build it, claims to live in the neighborhood, his construction workers certainly could not afford to buy the smallest unit in the project. And, once the project is finished, the rank and file who attend to the needs of the well-to-do residents will not be able to afford to live in the vicinity, and many of them will have to take long bus rides to work.

Indeed, 321 Ocean Enrique Norten is for the top 3% of the population, located on the most affluent edge of the upscale South Pointe neighborhood, a special district where local taxes are retained to improve the posh enclave instead of shared with the surrounding community. The spot zoning that makes the project a reality is the work of the real estate industry’s rotating politburo or political cabinet, the Commission of the City of Miami Beach.

We see in Miami Beach the last resort version of the national situation described by Hedrick Smith, in Who Stole the American Dream? (2012). Public opinion is ignored (change to Charter re zoning shot down) and special financial interests prevail despite popular notions of how democracy is supposed to work. Political scientists have long observed that legislators “simply tune out the opinions of average Americans when voting on legislation, especially when powerful financial interests get engaged.” Princeton professor Larry Bartels said that senators “were vastly more responsive to affluent constituents than to constituents of modest means.” And Princeton professor Martin Gilens said that “Influence over actual policy outcomes appears to be reserved almost exclusively for those at the top of the income distribution.” The mystery remains as to how politicians get away with policies contrary to the general public interest.

 

NORTEN General public interest
The Worship of Mammon (1909) Evelyn De Morgan

If there is one form of social power over material things that almost everyone loves, it is money, so much so that the medium of exchange, which was once only part of the definition of Mammon, and then only in its gold and silver form, and which has no inherent value as mere number, has replaced Mammon, the greedy idol of material wealth, becoming an abstract treasure laid up in heaven on earth, the kingdom of god ruled by the mundane elect, increasingly from penthouse palaces atop ever higher air castles have the right of support from all levels below.

The pragmatic logician and geodesist Charles Sanders Peirce once said that what makes America great is that every poor slob thinks he can get rich. And our history confirms that positive thinking has led from rags to riches, from log cabins to mansions and even to the White House built by enslaved labor.

 

NORTEN Enslaved labor
La dolce vita at 321 Ocean Enrique Norten

However, the circulation of wealth is not what it used to be; the old adage, that the rich get richer and the poor poorer, is proven by ever bigger numbers. Evolution is from simple to complex; purity is bound to fall into corruption. The day of reckoning is nigh; Miami Beach shall inevitably be uncovered by an apocalypse according to the law of averages or god. The greatest concern of the power elite of the City of Miami Beach today is that an extreme high water event will destroy the wealth they have built upon the sand. Yet the climb to heaven along a wall of ever taller towers along the beachfront is bound to accelerate, until what is raised high is laid low, or the population is stifled by gridlock.

Since every poor slob may still believe he can get rich if he really wants to in this great nation, but maybe he only wants a decent living, it is interesting to note that Peirce was not greedy enough to pursue material wealth to its logical conclusion. He lost his job with the U.S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey when funding was withdrawn, was unable to secure a university position because of romantic indiscretions, then received pittances for odd jobs here and there, including writing reviews, dictionary and encyclopedia articles. He wound up in dire straits, at one point a fugitive from justice over bad debts and an assault charge. He was an evolutionist, yet for him the dominating factor was not unending strife and competition, but love and cooperation. Social Darwinism offended him with its glorification of unbridled capitalism, which he called “the Gospel of Greed.” Yet he had his financial ambitions. He invested part of his inheritance in 2,000 acres of land near Milford, Pennsylvania, and built a house upon it. However, he who had coined the term “pragmatism” got no return on his investment other than his own usage of the property. Sorely impoverished and malnourished, his penury was especially pathetic during the last twenty years of his life. His great friend, William James, raised funds from fellow academics to put decent food on Peirce’s table; otherwise, his fare was stale bread from the local baker.

In any event, it appears that the City of Miami Beach is degenerating, like the rest of the nation, from pristine purity, or, if you please, from original sin, to a state of systemic corruption. Of course Miami Beach has a long history of criminal corruption, apparently not ending a couple of years ago with the latest wave of F.B.I. arrests. Departments of city government are frequently characterized as racketeer-influenced, corrupt organizations. When at city hall, I still look inside magazines lying around on the chance of finding a grand or two, and I also check the toilet paper dispensers in the bathrooms for wads of cash.

However, I speak here not of criminal corruption but of systemic corruption. What we may have here is the usual crony capitalism with its regulatory favoritism and the manipulation of the economy for the benefit of the vested interests and the meretricious professionals who serve those interests in public and private offices. So inured are they to the culture, the customary way of doing business, that whatever they do seems normal to them.

The City of Miami Beach has a fascistic constitution with an unbalanced, strong city manager, weak mayor form of government. The commissioners, many of whom are lawyers, are paid less than $10,000 per annum while maintaining outside businesses, a formula that fosters inattention to public business along with undisclosed and conflicts of interest condoned by self-serving codes of ethics. The mayor, who chairs the commission, has scant executive power. The highly paid executive is the unelected city manager, presides over the feudal departments via their well paid directors, “princes” that have considerably autonomy provided they back “the Boss” whenever needed.

In a word, Miami Beach is a dictatorship, the dictator being subject to removal by the commissioners in an infrequent political coup during an extraordinary struggle for power and its spoils. There are negligible democratic elements. Merely 4,000 votes in a city with a generally apathetic population of 100,000 may win a commissioner’s seat; many of those votes are obtained with the help of tightly knit neighborhood associations. Factions do occasionally crowd the commissioner chambers and raise a clamor one way or the other, sometimes moving the commission to vote according to the loudest outcry no matter how irrational and rude, although its origin is in fact a tiny, vocal minority of constituents. Thus are the loudest squeaks oiled to maintain the machine. Absent the clamor, most decisions are conclusions foregone. Dictators and kings alike have been moved throughout history to respond to major clamors or lose their heads. Until then, they enjoy sovereign immunity from liability as if they were gods.

Miami itself is rapidly becoming a “world class” city despite its low-class reputation as the “northern capital of Latin America” and the “top money laundry in the United States.” Miami Beach has long been a magnet for people fleeing bad weather including mobsters. The beach has its good souls yet is filled with runaways and with people on the make or on the take who will dump you in a New York minute without so much as a goodbye when you are no longer useful. Florida itself has always been a famous place to secure large sums from creditors and governments, to con people out of their money, selling swampland, engaging in Ponzi schemes—Ponzi himself practiced for awhile in Florida.

NORTEN awhile in Florida

Sky-high condos with glass walls are in vogue. Humans, like bees, love to swarm and build hives. Towers filled with babbling people climb to heaven, as if piled up for a holocaust of vanity. At least people who live in glass houses tend not to throw stones, no matter how arrogant they might be, so do not worry about the neighbors if the flooring underlayment is up to code. Still, people worry about the Flood, although the Lord promised there would never be another, having realized that everyone created in his image was originally evil because wherever good is found evil must exist, and every god, to be a god, needs a devil.

“Boss” Jorge Gonzalez ruled the city administration for fourteen years, during a period of astonishing real estate development, until a clamor was raised on 2012 over the F.B.I. arrests of several corrupted city employees. Previously, in 2008, two current city employees and one former city employee were arrested for accepting money and/or gifts from a developer by the name of Michael Stern, but no clamor was raised to remove Gonzalez. A bribery charge had been brought against Thomas E. Ratner, an chief electrical inspector with close ties to Stern, who agreed to rat out Ratner. And then Mohammed Partovi, a plans examiner, pleaded guilty of accepting a Rolex watch and cash from Stern. Andres Villareal, a city building inspector pled guilty to accepting $100,000 cash from Stern. Henry Johnson, a city planner, pled guilty to receiving at least $17,500 in bribes from Stern. Johnson’s duties included both planning and assessment of traffic impacts for new developments that would require the payment of concurrency mitigation fees paid by developers to compensate government agencies for the impact of increased traffic and parking and the like. For instance, a developer in 2008 was supposed to pay $35,000 for each parking spot that he did not provide with the development.

 

NORTEN with the development
Simone Hotel destroyed by developers

Curiously, Frank Del Vecchio, who lives next door to 321 Ocean Drive, objected to the concurrency planning element yet did not raise the Noisy Hotel Scare over the plans to build a 7-story Bijou Hotel on that site, next door to him, where the historic Simone Hotel had once stood. Johnson had worked on the plans for that development, but that was not mentioned in the arrest warrant. Del Vecchio claimed that tens of thousands if not millions in concurrency fees may have been corruptly avoided throughout the city because the city planners just rubber-stamp whatever is submitted by developers.

According to the Miami SunPost, Del Vecchio was the first person to appeal on the concurrency issue since the ordinance was passed in 2000, winning the appeal on Oct. 3, 2007. He said he appealed because his review of the application for the Bijou Hotel project “documented that it patently and improperly understated the project’s accessory use traffic and parking impacts, representing tens of thousands of dollars in understated concurrency impact fees and several hundred thousand dollars in payments required in lieu of providing the parking spaces required.” Carter McDowell, counsel for the Bijou at 321 Ocean, who back in 2002 had represented the Bijou and three other properties that would be affected by a zoning change then wanted for the Savoy Hotel redevelopment, said that Del Vecchio’s complaint was merely technical, over a piece of paper missing from the file. Johnson was removed from the Bijou process not because of wrongdoing, claimed Planning Director Jorge Gomez, but because it had been politicized by the criminal charges. Richard Lorber, planning and zoning manager for the city, took over the Bijou file from Johnson. The Bijou plan was not realized. Jorge Gonzalez promoted Jorge Gomez to assistant city manager in late 2009, and appointed Lorber as active planning director. Lorber then made a positive recommendation on the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten application. He would be suddenly dismissed in 2014 by the new political regime’s city manager, Jimmy Morales, a mere two months after he was positively recommended by Morales to become the department’s permanent director. The only explanation for the dismissal was that the administration wanted to go in a “new direction,” raising speculation that the alleged “Yes Man” for developers favored by former city manager Gonzalez may have raised some objections to the new regime’s manipulation of real estate development in the city.

By the way, no criminal charges were bought in regards to the allegedly uncollected concurrency fees. I would later uncover instances of concurrency fees and permit fees going uncollected in Miami Beach; high officials did not respond my reports. Jorge Gonzalez would be embarrassed himself in 2010 when it was revealed that he had hired a new building director, Cynthia Curry, a county budget analyst and assistant manager previously scandalized but unprosecuted for certification of overbillings on an airport contract. A Miami Beach fire inspector, David Weston, who insisted in 2006 that millions were missing due to uncollected building permit fees, was fired. He said he had reported what he believed was criminal behavior to city officials, and to local, state, and federal law enforcement, and then was interrogated as if he were the criminal. Weston continued pressing his allegation with city officials and law enforcement since then. His allegations were included in an inflammatory Miami New Times article of 6 February 2013 entitled ‘Miami Beach Fire Department is Aflame with Corruption.’ The city commission asked the administration for a report. Interim City Manager Kathie Brooks, formerly the city’s budget director during a scandal involving corrupt procurement practices culminating in the October 2012 arrest of Procurement Director Gus Lopez over $600,000 in payoffs from 12 companies, and City Attorney Jose Smith, who would prematurely resign in 2014 to become city attorney or North Miami Beach with a drastic cut in pay, reported that Weston had been terminated for violating the city’s code of ethics, not mentioning that the county’s ethics commission had cleared him. Weston pressed his concerns with the new city manager, Jimmy Morales, shortly after he was appointed. Morales promised not to brush the matter under the rug, and then did just that.

Scandalized city officials urged anyone with information about possible corruption to take it to the FBI. So many people informed that it was said that the FBI office was virtually buried in rat droppings. The consensus of law enforcement seemed to be that the city officials had discretion to reduce fees at will; therefore, any corruption would be moral instead of criminal hence could only be resolved politically.

All in all, the impression is that Miami Beach, proudly following a long tradition of criminal corruption, is systemically corrupt; that is, what appears as egregiously evil to outsiders is perceived as normal necessity or banal by insiders. It is the system and not them at fault. They were following custom if not direct orders. Interestingly, the legal term ‘banal’ (from ‘ban’ – ‘proclamation’) refers to the privilege a medieval lord had to command his vassals to perform military service, or his tenants to carry his grain to a “banned” or proclaimed space i.e. his “banal mill” for grinding, or to his “banal oven.” The performance of the duty is so commonplace, habitual, and hackneyed that no individual has a twinge of conscience even over commissions of obviously evil deeds.

On the other hand, some land use professionals who do business with the city believe it has the most professional and ethical planning staff in South Florida. The arrest of a few government officials alone may not prove that the city government is a criminal racketeering operation. Perhaps those who have been thinking inside city hall boxes for a long time suffer from institutional blindness, fostered by an administration that frowns on internal dissension, and disciplines employees and outside consultants and contractors who publicly criticize it, as if it were a big business corporation i.e. a fascistic organization. A culture is developed where even honest, hard-working employees and consultants see no evil, thus do they serve the power elite in good faith with consciences clear.

People always have reasons for disliking public authorities, and a few residents hated the handsome Gonzalez with a passion, for his demonstrable arrogance, for the impression given that they were not his boss, that his boss was the commission—that much was true according to the city’s constitution.

 

NORTEN city's constitution
Frank Del Vecchio leading so-called rabble

All the above was pretext, however, for the opposition faction on the commission to seize power over the direction of real estate development, and to manipulate it to their ends; in effect, to replace one set of developments and developers with another set. Commissioners Ed Tobin, Esq. and Jonah Wolfson, Esq. led the coup, engaging retired lawyer Frank Del Vechhio, Esq., who represents himself as a community “advocate,” to ‘raise the rabble’ to demonstrate against the Gonzalez regime.

Gonzalez was then involuntarily retired after 14 years of service. The commission dismissed the recommendations of a highly paid recruitment firm and hire Jimmy Morales, a political insider and good old boy from the beach then working as city attorney of the troubled city of Doral, as business manager for the beach although he had no city management experience—the justification for the city’s fascistic constitution is that it be run in a businesslike fashion. And then the faux opposition recruited a wealthy friend of Bill Clinton, Philip Levine, to run for mayor, he spending well over a million dollars for the small city’s mayoral seat. Furthermore, Levine supported a slate of other candidates, the result being a majority on the commission, expected to march in lockstep, at least until the honeymoon is over. New elected Commissioner Michael Grieco, a former state attorney and now a criminal attorney, said that the commission almost always blindly follows the new city manager’s recommendations. Thus far the commission has indeed been Jimmy Morales’ rubber stamp.

 

NORTEN Rubber stamp
Jorge ‘Boss’ Gonzalez, Jimmy ‘Fingers’ Morales, Philip ‘King’ Levine

The electoral rules precluded the former mayor, Matti Herrera Bower, who had previously been a city commission, from sitting as mayor for another term, but she would not go away, and ran for commissioner and lost.

Bower, who as mayor was handpicked by her predecessor, Mayor David Dermer, an anti-high-rise activist and condominium lawyer, was known for her support of the poor, her antipathy to high-rise development, and a talent for cleverly obstructing agendas with hysterical antics. She opposed the successful 2002 amendment to double the maximum height limitation of theRPS-4 oceanfront historical district that includes the property now being developed as 321 Ocean Drive, from 35 to 75 feet, proposing that the maximum be 55 feet instead. The purchaser of the historic low-rise Savoy Hotel down the street had desired the zoning amendment for expansion according to plans submitted by licensed local architect Luis Revuelta. Del Vechhio testified in favor of periodic incremental increases from the existing average of around 35 feet so as not to alarm people by going whole hog—frogs will remain and perish in water gradually raised to the boiling point. He did not raise the Hotel Noise Scare that he would raise as the reason why the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten residential condominiums for the wealthy should be built next door to his own residence instead of a hotel.

 

NORTEN instead of a hotel
Former Mayors David Dermer and Matti Bower

Nine years later, Commissioners Ed Tobin and Jonah Wolfson, with Frank Del Vecchio acting as counselor-at-large for the upscale South Pointe community, led the movement to raise the ceiling further, to 100 feet, this time on behalf of 321 Ocean Enrique Norten. Del Vecchio, by the way, is a sincere man of apparently modest means who lives with his charming wife in a condo next door to 321 Ocean Drive. He claims that his constituents are the poor hence are virtually nonexistent in his neighborhood. He serves without pay on several civic organizations. He played an instrumental role in the election of Phillip Levine. The apparent irony of his position on 321 Ocean Enrique Norten will be considered elsewhere in a discussion of The Big Hotel Noise Scare.

 

NORTEN Hotel Noise Scare
Developers applaud Ed Tobin, Luis Revuelta, Frank Del Vecchio

Neither Enrique Norten nor his company Ten Arquitectos, which submitted plans entitled “321 Ocean Drive” to the city for approval of the zoning, appeared to be registered as an architect in Florida although he is credited as the designer of major projects in town including a colossal luxury development under construction, nearby 321 Enrique Norten, developed by Jorge Perez’ Related Group. Luis Revuelta, who drafted the plans for the owner of the historic Savoy Hotel at 425 Ocean Drive for its successful 2002 effort to raise the height allowable in the RPS-4 Zoning District from 35 to 75 feet, is distinguished by a number of handsome projects, is now only the architect on record for 321 Ocean Enrique. Although Revuelta is a top local architect, Enrique Norten, hailed as a so-called starchitect, was apparently wheeled in for publicity and political connections.

Greenberg Traurig, the most powerful law firm in the state, having had even The Florida Bar, the regulatory arm of the Supreme Court of Florida, as its client, was retained to lobby the planning director and city attorney for the spot zoning needed to erect the two luxury condo buildings on the lot. Greenberg Traurig’s lobbying lawyers, as we know, have been involved as lobbyists in several colossal fraud scandals, yet we may supposedly rest assured that The Firm does not condone wrongdoing, that it cooperates with investigators, and terminates bad lawyers when they are caught red handed in misconduct.

Therefore, in our next chapter, we shall examine Greenberg Traurig’s legal memorandum declaring that the spot zoning of 321 Ocean Drive was not spot zoning, along with the city attorney’s legal opinion endorsing it. Finally, we shall conclude with a chapter, The Noisy Hotel Scare – Paper Tiger!

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