15-Jul-21 After much conversation, bickering, and battling over the fate of about 10,000 square feet of commercial space, a group of residents at Newberry Plaza is taking their concerns to court. Individual members of the Newberry Plaza Condominium Association board of directors are officially being sued for breach of duty.
The residents, who call themselves the Newberry Plaza Community Coalition, are vigorously opposed to a pending deal to transfer part of their buildings common areas to an outside interest.
Since 2018, NPCA president Christian Pezzuto had been working with 11 East Partners and Gensler Design to put together a redevelopment project that would increase commercial space at the mixed-use complex, mostly along its State Street side, by decreasing residential common element space and diminishing the very plaza the building was named after.
(Above) Proposed design (left) that would add three floors of commercial space to the east side of Newberry Plaza. Current design at right.
The plan would allow 11 East Partners to take over the common area pursuant to a 99-year lease in exchange for $1.
Bitter criticism and animosity since then has created divisions between neighbors, with accusations that derogatory, sexist, and insulting public comments were made between NPCA and NPCC members.
Last September, when a vote was called over the issue, a proxy battle broke out and the faction favoring the development deal did not meet the 75 percent threshold needed to move forward with the deal. Despite coming up short, the group pressed ahead, and that was when lawyers were called in.
A complaint was filed on July 6 in Cook County Circuit Court and summons were issued to 11 board members.
NPCC is represented by Brianna Golan (left) of Golan Christie Taglia LLP. Named plaintiffs are George Metropoulos, Michelle Meyer, and Richard Reifler, individually and on behalf of the NPCA. Named defendants are Kimberly Bowman, Brian Butters, Patricia Fernholz, Harvey Goldman, Jake Malishkevich, Neno Nevo, Christian Pezzuto, Jennifer Schultz, Edward Silha, Alexandre Stoykov, and Jerald Ziegler.
Through much of 2019 and 2020, coalition members say they have demanded answers about the deal, such as why the plan is being advanced and who benefits, but NPCA has refused to answer their questions. The members believe that at $1,000 per square foot, the condo association is losing more than $10 million in real estate value.
The complaint says the redevelopment plan violates NPCAs condominium declaration, bylaws, and the Illinois Condominium Property Act. It accuses members of the condo board of egregious breaches of fiduciary duty.
NPCC is asking the court to order the defendants to cease any further action on the project or any construction at Newberry Plaza that has not been properly approved by the NPCA.