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Downtown Orlando Developments

Ponte Health seeks to dismiss fraud complaint

The proposed Health Towers project would be a 33-story mixed-use tower in downtown Orlando's North Quarter District.

Ponte Health is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed earlier this summer that accused the company and its founder, Tabitha Ponte, of fraud and breach of contract stemming from the much-delayed tower project formerly known as Vertical Medical City.

Attorney Vincent B. Lynch with ELP Global, filed the motion early last week answering the complaint from MOA Capital, successor to one-time equity investor Phoenix Construction LLC.

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MOA had claimed the construction company paid $600,000 toward a $3 million equity investment, which entitled the firm to a 5% share of the Health Towers project and the right to construct all Ponte Health Tower projects in Florida. But the plaintiff’s attorney John Agliano did not include a copy of the agreement, or relevant portions, in the complaint.

Lynch argued this was reason enough to dismiss the lawsuit. “Accordingly, the failure to attach such document means that Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action and the Court should dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety,” he wrote.

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The parties are scheduled for a mediation hearing on Nov. 4, but Lynch is asking the court to administratively close the case and compel them to take part in arbitration. “The parties negotiated for and agreed to have a broad array of disputes and claims determined by mandatory binding arbitration that include the instant claims,” he wrote. “Plaintiff’s filing of the instant action is a breach of the arbitration agreement granting Defendants a separate claim for breach of contract and the damages caused by Plaintiff’s failure to abide by the Arbitration Agreement that will be sought and pursued against the Plaintiff.”

Meanwhile, Judge John E. Jordan has ordered a case management conference on Dec. 13 with the expectation that the case will proceed to trial.

The proposed $1.1 billion project, slated to rise on a 2.5-acre site at 1000 N. Orange Ave., would anchor Orlando’s North Quarter district halfway between the CBD and Medical City.

The design called for two towers: one for medical offices and research facilities, the other for senior housing and assisted living.

Orlando’s City Council approved the master plan for the proposed 444-foot tower, as well as the Conditional Use Permit that allows the assisted living to be built in an Urban Activity Center in 2019. City officials called the project a “pioneering concept for the city” and lauded its world-class architecture.

Dan Kirby, principal with Jacobs, led the design work, with one building housing 350,000 square feet of Class A medical offices, research labs and a rooftop atrium with a working urban farm. The taller building — 35-stories — would have 955 senior living units with a mix of assisted living, advanced care and memory care services.

The 2019 permits have expired, and Ponte has been working with city staff to secure a spot on the December Municipal Planning Board agenda for the resubmitted master plan. Ponte submitted updated plans on Nov. 1, and staff is reviewing the document to see if meets their sufficiency standard.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


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