Sears’ property owner sues Aventura Mall to halt expansion plans

The nation's third-largest mall plans to add a new 241,000 sf retail wing and parking garage

Jan.January 28, 2016 06:25 PM

Seritage Growth Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns Sears’ real estate assets, has filed suit against the owners of Aventura Mall — the Soffers’ Turnberry Associates and Simon Properties — seeking to stop the shopping center’s expansion plans.

The 105-page suit, filed by Seritage SRC Finance against Aventura Mall Venture, cites an easement and operating agreement dating back to 1982, originally between Sears and the mall — now Seritage and the mall. The mall’s expansion violates terms of the agreement “because it proposes structures and development activities that materially deviate from the terms of the plot plan,” according to the suit, filed late Thursday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

“Seritage Growth Properties owns a prime 13-acre parcel, including the existing Sears building at Aventura Mall,” Seritage’s attorney John Shubin of Shubin & Bass said in a statement. “Turnberry, the mall’s ownership group, has recently commenced an expansion on mall common areas in clear violation of the longstanding agreement between our property and the mall’s property. With this lawsuit, Seritage is asking the court to enforce the rights established in that agreement.”

A spokesman for Turnberry Associates, led by brother and sister Jeffrey and Jackie Soffer, said the mall owners had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment until they had a chance to review it.

According to the suit, the easement and operating agreement is geared “to ensure that the mall is operated for the mutual benefit of the parties and to protect and preserve critical easement rights over the mall’s common areas.” The agreement defines the mall’s common area to include the parking area, the suit says.

 “The [Aventura Mall Venture] expansion is effectively a land grab of the common area by [Aventura Mall Venture] so that it can be utilized solely for [Aventura Mall Venture]’s purposes, contrary to the express restrictive covenants of the [Easement and Operating Agreement],” the suit alleges.

On New Year’s Eve, the owners of Aventura Mall closed on a $213.5 million mortgage for the shopping center, as it embarks on its planned expansion. The mall, at 19501 Biscayne Boulevard, is anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and features 300 stores. In addition to Sears, other retailers include Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Burberry, Gap, J. Crew, Anthropologie and Zara.

Simon Property Group has a 33.3 percent interest in the mall’s ownership. In addition to owning the remaining 66.7 percent, Turnberry also manages the property. JP Morgan Chase is the lead lender of the new loan, according to county records.

In 2014, Turnberry announced it was expanding Aventura Mall to include a new three-story, 241,000-square-foot retail wing and parking garage. The mall first opened in 1983, then doubled its size in 1997 and in 2007, added Nordstrom and a three-level wing of high-end stores. It has more than 2.7 million square feet of space, making it the third largest shopping mall in the United States, behind Mall of the America in Minnesota and King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania.

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