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Lord & Taylor, the Last Remnant of White Flint Mall, Has Permanently Closed

From the MoCo Show:

Lord & Taylor, the Last Remnant of White Flint Mall, Has Permanently Closed

Back in May, we let you know that Lord & Taylor had announced plans to close their location in the former White Flint Mall area.

After months of inventory sales, it appears that this Lord & Taylor location has finally shut its doors for good. The parking lot is empty, this location is no longer listed on the Lord & Taylor website, and google lists the location as permanently closed.

When White Flint Mall first opened in 1977, Lord & Taylor was one of its anchor stores, along with Bloomingdale’s, and I. Magnin (later replaced by Borders Books).

In the mid 2010s, there was a legal dispute between Lord & Taylor and White Flint Mall; Lord & Taylor alleged that plans to redevelop the mall were in violation of Lord & Taylor’s rental agreement. The store was eventually allowed to remain and redevelopment was halted. The mall around Lord & Taylor was demolished and the store was the only part remaining.

Breaking White Flint Mall News

As reported on Washington Business Journal

The owners of the former White Flint Mall  have decided to pay the $31 million verdict a jury awarded to retailer Lord & Taylor rather than to appeal to a higher court, nearly a month after their last appeal was rejected, White Flint attorney Scott Morrison said.

The decision ends a protracted legal battle over the the site’s planned redevelopment that goes back nearly four years.

Appeals Court Upholds Verdict in Favor of Lord & Taylor in White Flint Mall Case

From Bethesda Beat

The Lord & Taylor store at the White Flint Mall site

The Lord & Taylor store at the White Flint Mall site

The owners of White Flint Mall have lost their appeal in a long-running court case against Lord & Taylor.

In an opinion published Tuesday, three judges of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a federal district court jury’s $31 million August 2015 verdict in favor of Lord & Taylor.

The opinion, written by Judge Pamela Harris, states the jury in the federal district court case properly accounted for lost profits and future construction costs to reconfigure the store after the owners of the mall—Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Cos.—breached a 1975 easement agreement with Lord & Taylor.

That agreement stated the mall’s owners would maintain the Rockville Pike property as a “first-class” mall until at least 2042. Instead, the owners ended leases with shops inside the mall and later demolished it over the past two years as part of a plan to redevelop the property into a massive mixed-use town center. The Lord & Taylor store sat next to the main mall building and was connected with a shared wall—the store is all that remains on the site now.

It’s not yet clear what legal options the mall’s owners have left to pursue—other than trying to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. Scott Morrison, the trial attorney who represented the mall’s owners in the case, said last year the redevelopment of the mall site wouldn’t happen unless the appeal was successful.

However, the estimated $800 million White Flint mall redevelopment is one of the largest proposed in the county—with about 5.22 million square feet of residential, retail, office and hotel development—and is a key component of the county’s White Flint Sector Plan. That plan aims to make the Rockville Pike retail area around the White Flint Metro station into a walkable, urban community.

In the federal district court case, attorneys for the mall’s owners made few attempts to fight the breach of contract, but did attempt to argue that Lord & Taylor would reap greater profits if the mall site was redeveloped into a new town center. However, the district court judge refused to allow the jury to consider testimony during the jury trial about future profits, noting such arguments would be speculation. White Flint’s attorneys had attempted to refute that decision in the appeals case.

Ultimately, the appeals judges sided with the district court’s decision, with Harris writing, “under Maryland law, it is clear that damages related to lost profits may not be recovered unless they can be proved with ‘reasonable certainty.’ “

The judges found that the mall’s owners “could not establish to a ‘reasonable certainty’ whether and to what extent Lord & Taylor would benefit from the redevelopment.”

The opinion also noted the mall’s owners failed to provide the jury with a clear picture of when the new town center would be built, how many buildings it would include and what types of businesses would be expected to lease space in it.

However, the appeals judges found that the lack of information was not the fault of witnesses presented by the developers and noted that “a real estate development of the scale contemplated here is an inherently risky endeavor, extending years into the future and marked by significant uncertainty.”

Lord & Taylor had also attempted to make counterclaims during the appeals case for additional funds related to its property rights under the easement agreement. The judges rejected the retailers’ argument by noting that potential lost profits are the governing factor in breach of contract cases such as this one under Maryland law.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond held oral arguments in the case Dec. 6. The latest ruling brings an end to the case that has been contested in federal courts since 2013.

The legal battle over White Flint Mall continues …

Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Cos. filed a notice Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals declaring their intention to appeal a verdict handed down by a U.S. District Court jury in August.

As you probably know, the jury awarded Lord & Taylor $31 million in damages, deciding the mall’s owners broke their contract to maintain the mall as a first-class shopping center until 2042. The monetary award is to make up for the lost profits Lord & Taylor claimed.

The mall’s owners hope to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the U.S. District Court jury in Greenbelt should have gotten the chance to consider how much money Lord & Taylor stood to make when and if the mall is redeveloped.

According to the Washington Business Journal, Scott Morrison, an attorney for the mall owners, said, “We think it was grossly unfair for Lord & Taylor to estimate future losses without allowing us to present evidence of how much money it would have made. It was like arguing with handcuffs on.”

On another note, here are some photos from Greater Greater Washington showing the parking garages at the mall coming down.

wf1 wf2

The news we’ve read lately about White Flint Mall

We’re sure you’ve seen an article  or two about the decision in the Lord & Taylor/owners of White Flint Mall trial. We thought it might be helpful to list the articles here.

Community Sees White Flint Mall Case as Turning Point in Area’s Transformation.After Friday’s decision by a federal jury, people who live and work in the area are to see promised redevelopment begin. (Bethesda Magazine)

Jury awards $31 million to Lord & Taylor in White Flint dispute (Washington Post Capital Business)

What the jury’s verdict means for the future of the White Flint redevelopment (Washington Business Journal)

Jury awards $31 million to Lord & Taylor over demolition. The owners of a soon-to-be-demolished shopping mall in Rockville, Maryland, have been ordered to pay $31 million in damages after a jury ruled that they breached their contract with department store Lord & Taylor. (Washington Post Local)

And don’t forget — tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 is Grill Night at Wall Park. We’ve got grills, live music, snacks, soft drinks, and all the fixings for s’mores.  You just need to bring something to grill, so join your neighbors at the last Grill Night of the summer.  See you tonight at Grill Night!

grill night invitation

New conceptual drawings released for White Flint Mall redevelopment

White Flint redevelopment

Bethesda Magazine reported yesterday that White Flint Mall’s owners released new conceptual drawings for the mall’s redevelopment during their U.S. District Court trial versus Lord & Taylor.  And yes, we very much like what we saw in those drawings.’

The Bethesda Magazine article stated:

The exhibit also shows detailed square footage for retail slots surrounding Lord & Taylor’s store as well as what a Rockville Pike Promenade, retail plaza and the central piazza could look like.

Charts attached to the site plans show 533 residential units and 589,000 square feet of retail development as part of the first construction phase. Alan Gottlieb, Lerner’s chief operating officer, testified during the trial on Aug. 5 that phase one could be built in about three-and-a-half years, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The residential units would range from one- to three-bedrooms and could include “very small commuter units” called micro-units…

While of course this drawing is subject to change, it is a lovely vision of what the White Flint mall may become.

White Flint Mall Garage is Coming Down!!

This long-awaited notice from White Flint Mall just crossed my desk  — and it is most welcome news for the Pike District/White Flint area.

“White Flint Mall will begin the demolition of three sections of the Mall parking garage (excluding those parking garage areas serving Lord & Taylor) beginning Wednesday, July 8.  The demolition is scheduled between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm, Monday through Friday, for the duration of the garage demolition project, which is expected to last approximately three to four months.

For safety reasons, the roadways along this demolition site perimeter will be closed during the aforementioned times, but will be re-opened each evening. The roadways will remain open on Saturday and Sunday, and all observed national holidays.

During this demolition, we will follow Montgomery County Code requirements to the fullest extent, to include safety monitoring, noise ordinance, and security patrols.

We encourage on-going communications with our neighbors, so please feel free to contact us if you have any questions and/or concerns throughout this process.”


Washington Business Journal Details White Flint Mall/Lord & Taylor Battle

Curious why White Flint Mall hasn’t been demolished? This detailed article, White Flint Mall and Lord & Taylor both accuse each other of good old-fa…, in the Washington Business Journal discusses the protracted legal battle between Lord & Taylor and Lerner Enterprises.
If you don’t have time to read this lengthy article, I’ve listed some highlights below:
  • Lord & Taylor’s lawsuit against White Flint will mark its two-­year anniversary this July, delaying the mall’s redevelopment and likely costing both sides millions of dollars in legal fees and related costs.
  • “I think all of us in Montgomery County want this matter resolved so the redevelopment can move forward,” said Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner
  • Representatives for Lord & Taylor allege White Flint didn’t just let the mall fade away but rather precipitated its demise as an enclosed mall to tear it down and redevelop it into a town center.
  • Federal Court Judge Roger Titus, in a December 2013 ruling, denied Lord & Taylor’s request for an injunction, finding the loss of tenants and state of the mall, which at that point included the demolition of the former Bloomingdale’s, was too far along for the mall to be restored and that Lord & Taylor’s lawsuit could be addressed through financial damages instead. This past March, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Titus’s finding.
  • The retailer has engaged in “guerilla warfare,” the mall asserts, by attempting to block its requests for demolition permits to tear down its exterior. “It has genuinely hurt the business relationship dramatically and significantly between White Flint and Lord & Taylor,” White Flint attorney Scott Morrison said. “What Lord & Taylor’s doing now, frankly, is outrageous. This redevelopment is going to occur. They’ve cost White Flint by their conduct, already, millions and millions of dollars due to the delay and the legal fees and the carry on the property. It’s a travesty, really.”
  • Morrison also said, “We want the redevelopment to be a success. We always assumed that they wanted it to be successful, and the way to make it successful is for them to cooperate with us. We don’t want to hurt Lord & Taylor. Remember, we want a redevelopment that works. We spent a year and a half with the highest executives of Lord & Taylor and their consultants to try to do just that.”
  • The mall site has been approved for more than 2,400 residential units, 1 million square feet of office, another million square feet of retail, a 300­-key hotel and a little less than 17 acres of open space.


The Decline and Nostalgia of White Flint Mall

White Flint Mall has been in the news recently and we wanted to highlight some of these articles.

As of January 4th, Lord & Taylor is the only store open in White Flint Mall. The mall property will be redeveloped into a mixed-use space, adding to the walkable street grid of the Pike District.

An article from the Huffington Post last week discussed the mall and one reporter’s nostalgia of growing up going to White Flint Mall. The reporter mentioned that she spent her childhood visiting the mall and is having trouble getting over the fact that mall will be closing some day soon. Both Amy and I have the similar feelings of nostalgia around this mall. Personally, I grew up visiting the mall to buy books, to eat, and to even go to my dentist.

An article in the New York Times also focused on dying malls across the U.S. There is a popular website that provides pictures of dying malls. One of the malls this article highlighted was White Flint Mall. This article focused on the types of malls that are closing. One individual mentioned in the article said that “There are B and C malls in tertiary markets that are dinosaurs and will likely die,” but “A malls are doing well.”

White Flint Mall, however, was always known as an upscale A mall, bringing the one of the first Bloomingdale’s to the area in 1977. So to say A malls are “living,” is not the whole truth. As Amy Ginsburg mentioned in the Huffington Post article “the gradual decline of malls speaks to a desire to reclaim an older way of life,” where a walkable community is focused around a street grid that provides space to live, work, and play. As more planners and developers across the U.S. learn to use smart land-use strategies, we will continue to see malls close.