Singer Island developer waits out bust, brings back condo project

After putting his dream on hold for a decade, developer Dilip Barot has revived an oceanfront project focused on health and wellness.

“If you think something is good, you have to be persistent,” Barot says. “The good things in life require patience.”

During the real estate boom, Barot collected deposits from nearly 100 buyers at his proposed Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences.

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But as the Palm Beach County condo market plateaued in 2006 and then began to plummet, Barot pulled the plug on his project. He says he returned 86 deposits, and his 4.7-acre site at 3100 N. Ocean Drive on Singer Island has sat dormant since. The project also brought a lawsuit from Barot’s architect, who in 2006 sued for nearly $800,000 in unpaid fees.

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Unlike many boomtime condo developers who lost their properties to foreclosure, Barot held onto the land. Now, more than 10 years after he first won approval for Amrit Ocean Resort, Barot is moving ahead with plans for a 19-story tower and an 18-story tower on his oceanfront property.

There’s a sales center on the property, and heavy machines are moving dirt.

Barot said he doesn’t have bank financing for his project, which has led to some skeptical whispers in Singer Island real estate circles. However, Barot said he did land a construction loan and has raised an undisclosed sum from foreign investors through the EB-5 visa program.

Real estate analyst Jack McCabe said Barot’s lack of experience with oceanfront condo development might give buyers pause. Otherwise, McCabe said, “Singer Island is a very desirable location, and it seems health and wellness would be a good fit.”

One of the Amrit’s two towers will be named Peace, the other Happiness — but business hasn’t always been tranquil for Barot over the past decade. Among other legal entanglements, a former senior vice president of Barot’s company, Creative Choice Homes, sued Barot in 2009, saying Barot owed him $700,000. The parties came to a confidential settlement, but a $2.2 million judgment was recorded.

In another suit, Regions Bank sued Barot in 2010 after he defaulted on a $3 million loan. And in a 2012 suit, Nationwide Life and Annuity Insurance Co. accused Barot of fraud, saying a $20 million life insurance policy Barot took in 2010 was part of “a morbid and speculative investment vehicle.” On his insurance application, Barot said his net worth was $52 million. That case was resolved in a confidential settlement, according to court records.

Now that good times have returned to Singer Island’s condo market, Barot’s mood is buoyant.

“We are very confident about our financial viability,” Barot said.

The latest version of Amrit Ocean Resort includes 198 condos and 155 hotel rooms. Condo prices range from $700,000-plus for 1,450-square-foot units to more than $4 million for penthouses. Barot hired Premier Sales Group of Fort Lauderdale to market the units.

Singer Island hasn’t seen large-scale condo development for a decade, but that’s changing. The 58-unit Vista Blue project at 3730 N. Ocean Drive, where units start at $1.6 million, is under construction. And Kolter Group in 2015 bought a site at 5000 N. Ocean Drive and plans condos there.

Barot, a 59-year-old native of India, stresses that this property isn’t just an oceanfront condo. Rather, he’s marketing it as a wellness resort that happens to have condos attached.

Amrit is a Sanskrit word that translates to “elixir of life,” and Barot is carrying the wellness theme throughout his development.

Amrit will include a spa and wellness facility. A beachfront garden will offer shaded areas for outdoor massages and yoga classes. An oceanfront demonstration kitchen will host cooking classes that address topics such as super foods and juice cleanses.

Another wellness-oriented condo, Canyon Ranch in Sunny Isles Beach, flopped, but Barot said he has studied that project for clues. In one adjustment, he says his condo fees will be lower than those charged by Canyon Ranch.

Amrit’s hotel will be managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts of Fairfax, Va., Barot said, and it, too, will focus on healthy living.

Residents’ condo fees will include some basic wellness services, such as use of the gym and an occasional massage. Residents will be free to spend more, of course. Barot plans to hire health assistants who will coach residents on nutrition and sleep. For residents who are willing to have their vital signs monitored closely, assistants will make note of their blood pressure and breathing patterns.

“Nothing exists like this in America,” Barot said. “We want to be truly committed to delivering the wellness model.”

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