Thou shalt not default

Westfield sues True Religion for backing out of lease at WTC mall

A rendering of the Oculus at the Westfield World Trade Center
A rendering of the Oculus at the Westfield World Trade Center

The landlord at the World Trade Center Mall, the altar to consumerism clad in Santiago Calatrava’s white marble, is accusing one of its tenants of being a heretic.

Westfield Corp. is suing the casual clothing company True Religion, seeking more than $6.5 million after the Los Angeles-based retailer failed to take possession of its space at the shopping center, according to a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court Thursday.

True Religion signed a 10-year lease in May 2015 to take 1,358 square feet on the lower level of the mall and was supposed to take possession of the space in March 2016.

In letter dated April 5, the retailer’s representatives wrote that, “due to economic circumstances, True Religion does not expect to be opening for business at the premises” and urged Westfield to start marketing the space to find a replacement tenant.

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In subsequent letters, True Religion reiterated the company felt it was “in everyone’s best interest to find a replacement tenant . . . as quickly as possible” and asked Westfield to provide proof it was making a serious effort. The tenant believed that, per the terms of the lease, Westfield was obligated to look for a new tenant.

Westfield’s attorneys, however, argued True Religion’s belief was “misplaced,” and that it would only be contractually obligated to look for a new tenant after the tenant took possession, and then subsequently vacated, its space.

Representatives for neither company were available to comment.

This is not the first lawsuit of its kind at the mall, which has been plagued by setbacks and delays.

In May, Westfield sued the shoe shop Dune London after the company failed to take possession of its space.