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Nasty Developer-Financier Feud Behind Design41

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Design41, the Design District multi-use project named by Curbed readers, could soon be up for grabs as the partnership behind the development unravels in lawsuits. On Thursday, developer Asi Cymbal, one half of Design District Development Partners, the company created to develop Design41, filed a complaint in circuit court against the company's other half, government-approved EB-5 broker Benjamin "Roy" Norton. Cymbal is asking the court for an involuntary dissolution—basically, to break up DDDP. What either partner would be left with—if anything at all--is unknown, but Cymbal wants out. He says he'll finance the rest of the project himself.

After Cymbal acquired the land and proposed a mixed-use building, Norton sent Cymbal an email. Norton offered to find 25 individual foreign investors who would pool money together to finance the project exMiami values at $35 million as part of the EB-5 visa program. It took two years, but finally Norton ponied up some cash and Cymbal, whose construction company was building Design41, got to work. Then, in June 2013, the payments allegedly stopped coming. Initially that didn't deter Cymbal, who calls the Mexican starchitect Enrique Norten-designed eight-story commercial project "my baby." (Construction subcontractors have gone unpaid and even Mr. Norten has only been partially paid.) Cymbal went to court to put a lien on the project. Then one day the bomb dropped: DDDP gave Cymbal the pink slip.

It was only recently, Cymbal tells Curbed, that he learned anything about his Tampa-based partner. According to the complaint, New York Stock Exchange revoked Norton's membership when he refused to answer some questions right before being canned from his job. Multiple federal tax liens have been filed against Norton and his wife and business partner, Julie Norton (American Hustle, anyone?). In an email to Curbed, Norton says the project's entire funding with EB-5 investments is all lined up and the construction will proceed under Alan Hicks of Integrated Design Systems. Cymbal's no longer in the picture because of "accounting irregularities," Norton says, a claim Cymbal's attorney, Scott Kravetz, says is just ridiculous. The story of Design41 keeps getting shadier and more intriguing. Stay tuned.
· All previous Design41 coverage [Curbed Miami]
· Design District Project To Continue Without Original Manager [SFBJ]
· Enrique Norten's Design41 Now Under Construction [exMiami]