|By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida Sun-Sentinel|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
July 3, 2004 - CityPlace Partners has filed suit over a decision by Palm Beach County commissioners to pick another developer to build the county's convention center hotel.
The hotel is a $100 million project as envisioned by Ocean Properties Ltd., the Delray Beach firm selected by commissioners at a June 1 meeting as the most attractive of four developers who responded to a request for proposals.
CityPlace contends its proposal saves the county $8.7 million over the Ocean Properties' plan. After commissioners choose Ocean's bid, CityPlace managing partner Steven Ross promised "a long, drawn-out court battle." The suit was filed in circuit court on June 30.
Before the June 1 commission meeting, the developers had agreed not to sue the county if they were allowed to revise their offers originally submitted in January, and if the county hired an outside consultant to evaluate them.
"It's unfortunate," said County Administrator Bob Weisman of the suit. "CityPlace did sign an agreement during the selection process indicating they would abide by the process the way the County Commission conducted it."
He said the suit would delay the hotel, seen as key to the success of the $84 million center that opened last year.
The suit, which names the county and Ocean Properties as defendants, alleges that the winning bid should have been rejected because it didn't meet the bid requirements. Ocean Properties was the only developer that didn't specify a brand, such as Hyatt or Marriott.
"This tactic provided Ocean Properties with a material advantage over CityPlace," said the suit, by freeing Ocean from chain-specific economic projections.
Weisman said it was well known that Ocean Properties' proposal did not include a brand. He said that county consultant Charles Johnson reviewed the lack of a brand, "and thought it was a positive, not a negative."
The suit asks a judge to block the county from negotiating a contract with Ocean Partners, and for damages. CityPlace and the county are already in court over the site of the hotel, which is leased to CityPlace but optioned to the county for purchase.
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