Contractors say they haven't been paid by new hotel-condo


The Place, a hotel condominium marketed to Gator fans, is located on Newberry Road.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 9:29 p.m.

The conversion of the former Newberry Inn/Ramada Inn into a hotel condominium marketed to Gator fans garnered statewide publicity last fall, but construction and service contractors say while the owners were raking in the attention, they were also withholding money owed for work on the property.

An attorney for the owners said they have been making good on payments they previously didn't know were due, however.

Only after liens were filed against them did they find out a general contractor failed to pay subcontractors for materials, and a former manager contracted for services without proper documentation, said Jay Koenigsberg, a Miami attorney.

"These things all came together at one time, but they're not indicative of some failing project here," he said. "It's unfortunate, but it happened and everyone will get paid."

He said the former manager was allowed to resign in lieu of being fired.

Not true, said former manager Dan Berben, now general manager at Paramount Plaza Hotel.

"I knew they were in trouble financially, so I jumped ship," he said. "I have a spotless record in the business for 26 years. Anything that's not paid is due to them not paying it. They had all the invoices from day one."

Keystone Gator Hotel Campus, a partnership based in Fort Lauderdale and managed by Jay Schwartz, purchased the former Ramada Inn and adjacent Holiday Inn West in 2006.

The Ramada became Newberry Inn and was renamed The Place last fall and marketed as a hotel condo with renovated rooms for sale. Owners have a guaranteed room when they want it, and can let the hotel rent it out when they don't for a portion of the rental fees.

The Place started a marketing campaign in conjunction with the University of Florida's football season in the fall. That's also when contractors say the payments for their services stopped coming.

In October, Tile Contractors Supply Company of Florida filed a lien against the owners for $6,700 worth of supplies and Lawnpro Maintenance filed a lien for payment for lawn work.

Both cases have since been settled and no other liens were on file in Alachua County court records.

Mark Coughlin, owner of Lawnpro, also disputed Koenigsberg's assertion that the former manager contracted for work the owners didn't know about.

"They asked him to ask me to do things for them," he said.

Cottage Gardens owner Jon George said he was recently paid for landscaping, but has not been paid for irrigation work.

Don Segui of Full Spectrum Contractor Services said he is the big loser in the deal.

As general contractor for renovations to four model units and the lobby, he said the owners paid him $40,000 but shorted him more than $60,000, most of which he owes suppliers and subcontractors.

Koenigsberg said the difficulty is in figuring out who has been paid by Segui and who has been paid by the owners.

"We paid the contractor and we've paid those subcontractors now, so from our perspective, we've paid twice for certain work," he said. "We're having a bit of a dispute with Full Spectrum, but when it gets resolved they will get paid."

The current on-site marketer for condo sales did not return calls for comment. The original broker, Cornell & Associates, had a dispute with expenses for which they will be paid, Koenigsberg said.

"I know there's still interest from people and they're showing it quite a bit," said Freddy Pearson of Cornell & Associates.

Gainesville real estate lawyer Melissa Murphy recommended that anyone buying any property hire an attorney to review a title search and title insurance.

She said liens on a multi-unit facility may apply to the entire facility or to individual units.

Anthony Clark can be reached at 352-374-5094 or anthony.clark@gvillesun.com.

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