White Flint Mall’s owners are saying that Lord & Taylor’s legal maneuvering is stopping their attempts to redevelop the mall.
Lawyers for the mall’s owners—Lerner Enterprises and the Tower Cos.—filed a motion in federal District Court Thursday to request a trial to decide what compensation, if any, Lord & Taylor should receive for the mall’s owners violating an agreement with the store.
Lord & Taylor, the only tenant remaining in the now-closed mall, first filed a lawsuit against the mall’s owners in July 2013 to attempt to stop them from redeveloping the shopping center. Lord & Taylor cited an agreement with the owners that includes a requirement that the owners operate the mall as a “first-class, high-fashion retail shopping center” until at least 2042.
At the beginning of March, Lord & Taylor lost an appeal that would have forced the mall’s owners to halt redevelopment. Now the store’s remaining claim is for damages.
In the latest filing, the lawyers representing the mall’s owners say the case should proceed to trial on the damages claims because “Lord & Taylor’s lawsuit is making it impossible for White Flint to secure financing and to attract key tenants willing to commit to the project.”
The filing states the retailer is using extensions and other legal maneuvers to effectively prevent the mall’s owners from redeveloping the site. “Lord & Taylor should not be allowed to string out this litigation and sandbag White Flint’s redevelopment efforts indefinitely in hopes of securing a multimillion-dollar payout for the release of its alleged ‘consent rights’,” the filing says.
Although the mall’s owners were considering alternatives to the sketch plan approved by Montgomery County in 2012, they have decided to move forward with the approved plan. The plan calls for a Town Center-style mixed-use development with large retail centers, office space and residential buildings. Lord & Taylor is claiming that in order for it to disclose certain witnesses it plans to call during the trial, then the mall’s owners need to produce a final site plan for the redevelopment.
“Of course, Lord & Taylor knows that such an order would delay the litigation by over a year,” wrote the lawyers for the mall’s owners, who added that the sketch plan provides all of the information that Lord & Taylor would need to assess how the redevelopment will impact the financial performance of its store.
The mall’s owners also claim Lord & Taylor attempted to block the county’s Department of Permitting Services from issuing demolition permits in February by sending a letter to the department.
The judge in the case, Roger W. Titus, has scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. May 27 to discuss the pending motions. Titus may decide on the motions prior to the hearing, however, according to a memo sent to both parties March 12.
Francine Waters, a spokeswoman for Lerner Enterprises, said March 10 she did not have new information about whether demolition at the mall would proceed. In the latest filings, the mall’s chief operating officer, Alan Gottlieb, says the lawsuit has stalled redevelopment of the mall because the company has not been able to obtain financing for the project.
Lord & Taylor is the last remaining store at the mall. P.F. Chang’s closed its restaurant at the mall Jan. 4, and prior to that closing, Dave & Buster’s closed in August after losing a lawsuit against the mall’s owners.