Lord & Taylor rumored to be staying at White Flint

Lord & Taylor was sold this week to a little-known clothing rental service, Le Tote, a seven-year-old San Francisco company.

Hudson’s Bay, the chain’s parent company, will continue to own Lord & Taylor’s real estate and cover Le Tote’s rent at those properties for three years. Le Tote will pay $100 million in cash for Lord & Taylor’s brand and inventory and take control of 38 stores and the chain’s digital presence. Five stores will close as part of the transaction, but the company did not say which ones.

Friends of White Flint has heard from unnamed sources (how very Washington Post of us to cite unnamed sources) that Lord & Taylor at White Flint Mall will be staying at the mall site…at least for now.

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.

Yes, they’re still tied up in court.

The White Flint Mall and Lord & Taylor case just got scheduled Oct. 25 to 28 in Richmond at The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Mall’s owners are appealing a District Court decision that awarded Lord & Taylor $31 million in damages. White Flint Mall owners appealed so they can provide evidence  about the future potential profits for Lord & Taylor from the redeveloped town center that will one day be built on the property. Lord & Taylor appealed because they believe they deserve more than $31 million in damages.

According to the Washington Business Journal, “The U.S. District Court jury found in August 2015 that White Flint broke a decades-old agreement with Lord & Taylor to operate White Flint as a high-end retail center by deliberately vacating the roughly 800,000-square-foot enclosed mall and voted 6-1 to award the retailer $31 million in lost profits and related costs.”

And the walls came tumbling down…

Enjoy these photos of the demolition of White Flint Mall taken and published by Greater Greater Washington. And here is a link to GGW’s blog post on the Mall.

And here’s a bonus photo from Pike District resident Pam Gates.

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The Garage is Gone

In case you haven’t been around the back of White Flint Mall lately, here’s two photos of the back of White Flint Mall. Notice how the garage has morphed into giant piles of stones.

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.

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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.

Friends of White Flint on the TV News

It’s hot and humid enough to wring water from air, so today we have a very short blog.

On yesterday’s Fox5 news, there was a story about the litigation over White Flint Mall and what the future holds for the White Flint area.  Check it out here.

Also posted yesterday was a video about the White Flint Mall, #PickthePike, and our area on Montgomery Community Media.  Check it out here.