Ocean mall set to be razed as tenant fights developer

RIVIERA BEACH ó While Dan Catalfumoís fight to redo the ocean mall is over, a tenant is taking the builder to court as he prepares to raze the aging structure.

Catalfumo Construction and development announced Monday that the demolition at the mall on Singer Island will begin 10 am Wednesday. The 36-year-old mall is being leveled to make way fo 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

"The demolition signals the start of the redevelopment of the Ocean Mall," said Joey Eichner, president of Catalfumo Development and Management. "This is something the people of Riviera Beach have looked forward to for a long time".

But tenant Solomon Kedmi, owner of Portofino Italian Grill, warned officials not to pop open the Champagne just yet. Kedmi sued Catalfumo on Tuesday, after the two sides failed to reach an agreement for the restaurant owner to move.

Kedmi has 14 years left on his lease, but Catalfumo offered him no compensation, according to Kedmiís attorney, Ronald Gache. His client had no choice but to seek relief from the courts, he said.

"Weíre at a stalemate," Gache said. "He (Catalfumo) can build around us or attempt to resolve the lease. He canít simply say leave while he builds a new mall."

Instead, the builder is trying to evict Kedmi, citing a section in his lease that prohibits him from owning a restaurant within 5 miles of Portofino. Kedmi is turning the former No Anchovies in Palm Beach Gardens into a barbecue restaurant.

Kedmi said the restaurant is 5.9 miles from Portifino. Catalfumo also is boosting his monthly rent from $13,138 to $15,116, a 25 percent increase, Kedmi said.

In addition, Catalfumo is charging Kedmi retroactively, going back to when he took over the lease. Two weeks ago, Kedmi received a letter stating that he had to pay $38,475 in back rent because of the alleged lease violation or face eviction.

"Even a blind man can see whatís going on here," Kedmi said. "I am comfortable with the situation because itís in the hands of the court."

Kedmi is also upset that the company has stopped maintaining the mall. He says the parking lot is not lit, the landscaping is lacking and the public restrooms have been closed.

Eichner, meanwhile, declined to comment on Kedmiís lawsuit and his allegations. Last month, however, Eichner said that Catalfumo would build around Portofino if they canít reach a settlement.

Most of the tenants are gone because their leases expired. Besides Kedmi, Eichner is still in talks with Subway and the 7-Eleven, whose negotiations have remained cordial.

Until deals are struck, the area housing Portofino, Subway and 7-Eleven wonít be demolished, Eichner said.