|By Kimberly Blanton, The Boston
GlobeMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 6, 2006 - The buyer of Boston's most expensive condominium, the $14.3 million penthouse at the swank Residences at Mandarin under construction at the Prudential Center, sued the developers to get out of the deal, saying the unit doesn't have enough light.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in US District Court in Boston, the prospective buyer, Florida real estate developer Pritam Singh, said that Mandarin's builder, CWB Boylston LLC, intentionally withheld information about how much light was available in the penthouse and how much shadow was created by nearby buildings. Singh said the issue was "of critical importance" to him and his wife and business partner, Ann Johnston, who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, which triggers depression in the dark winter months.
If the sale closed, the penthouse would be the most expensive residential property sale recorded in Boston history, according to a mid-November ranking by Listing Information Network, which tracks the downtown market. The 50-unit project, which will offer top-drawer hotel services to residents when it opens in 2008 including dog-sitting and delivery of raw steaks to residents' rooftop patios for grilling, has lured high-profile buyers such as car-dealership magnate Herb Chambers and one of the Boston Celtics owners, Robert Epstein. The project also includes a 149-room hotel.
One of the big draws at the Mandarin is partner Robin Brown, who in 14 years as general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Boston built a reputation for service by pampering power brokers and celebrities.
The developers immediately fired back at Singh. The lawsuit "is nothing but a publicity scam by a sophisticated real estate developer to get his $3.3 million deposit back," Alan Eisner, a spokesman for Goulston & Storrs, CWB Boylston's attorneys, said in a statement yesterday. The statement said that CWB worked closely with Singh and with architects to address his numerous concerns, and "and he knew exactly what he was buying."
Singh signed a purchase and sale agreement for the 7,000-square-foot unit in May 2005, and put down a $3.4 million deposit, the suit said. Since then, the median price of a condominium in the Boston areas has fallen 7 percent, though the luxury market remains strong.
Singh denied that he was backing out because of falling prices. "Condo prices go up and down," Singh, who grew up in Fitchburg, said in an interview yesterday. "When I went to buy this, I thought I was buying the best property in the city.
"This is Boston, and it's dark early," he said. "I can buy any place I want. Why would I buy a place that was dark? If you know it's going to be extensively in shadows, you should tell someone."
Singh is known for developing the Truman Annex, a former naval station, into a mixed-use and residential project in Key West.
Singh is seeking to rescind his purchase contract with CWB, a partnership among developers Stephen Weiner and Julian Cohen and former hotelier Brown. Singh's suit said he wants his deposit back.
The prior record for a Boston condo sale, set in October 2003, was a $9.1 million for a unit on Commonwealth Avenue.
The suit said the sales brochures described light that would "flood through the windows" but they "vastly understated the nearly constant state of darkness which, for much of the year, will affect the exterior windows, gardens and porches of the unit."
The developer did not disclose to Singh a study of shadows on the building that was prepared for the project's proposal to the city, he said.
CWB's spokesman, Eisner, said the study for the city was primarily concerned with the shadows caused by Mandarin itself, and there was "no reference in the study to shadows cast on individual units."
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