Ross denies it stood in the way of new Glenwood Springs Mall tenants | PostIndependent.com

Ross denies it stood in the way of new Glenwood Springs Mall tenants

Documents show Kohl's, Sportman's Warehouse, Harbor Freight were courted

A customer leaves Ross at the Glenwood Springs Mall on a recent afternoon.

Ross Dress For Less, the Glenwood Springs Mall's anchor tenant, is pushing back against an accusation that its 2011 lease agreement "makes it all-but impossible" for mall owner Frank Woods to freely manage his properties.

"Shopping centers are symbiotic animals," Ross's attorney, Brandee L. Caswell of the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm, said in a recent interview.

"You want foot traffic. You want other retailers. It does not help you to be the only store in a fairly empty mall," she said. "That is not what retailers want."

In its Jan. 4 legal complaint against the city of Glenwood Springs and the newly formed West Glenwood urban renewal authority, Ross refers to the May 2012 closing of Kmart, which left over 40,000 square feet of the Glenwood Springs Mall vacant. It remains empty today.

According to the complaint filed in Garfield County District Court, "Ross provided written notice to [the] owner that Kmart's closure triggered a co-tenancy violation, and encouraged the owner to re-tenant the space within 12 months."

Then, in March 2017, J.C. Penney also closed its doors, "leaving approximately 34,000 square feet vacant," the complaint asserts.

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"I can affirm that there is not a single tenant that Woods proposed to move into the center – large, medium, small or otherwise – that Ross said they did not want or were not willing to accept," Caswell said.

Among those, according to a proposal put forth just last year and included in Ross's court filings, were Kohl's, Sportsman's Warehouse and Harbor Freight.

CITY INTERVENES

On May 11, 2017, Glenwood Springs City Council held a special executive session to discuss, among other items, the "W. Glenwood Mall," according to City Council agenda records.

Executive sessions are meetings of elected bodies held behind closed doors to discuss legal matters, pending litigation, personnel issues and real estate negotiations with attorneys. The public is barred from listening or weighing in at these sessions.

According to the Ross complaint, the mall owner approached Ross with a request to alter the mall's interior common area in July 2017.

"Discussions between the owner and Ross continued into September 2017 regarding the relocation of Ross to the former J.C. Penney site within the Mall…" the complaint stated.

Ross had already invested $1.8 million into its current space, and the price of relocating to and building out the former J.C. Penney location would cost Ross almost $2 million, according to the complaint.

However, on May 17, 2018, the Ross Real Estate Committee approved the new lease, including relocation to the old J.C. Penney space, according to the complaint.

The same night, City Council – immediately following its regularly scheduled meeting – went into executive session to discuss, again among other topics, the West Glenwood Mall.

"On June 2, 2018, Frank Woods … abruptly notified Ross that the Owner was walking away from the fully executed [letter of intent], relocation and the new lease that had been negotiated for the past four months. The owner provided no explanation to Ross for its decision."

Then, again on June 7, 2018, the mall discussion appeared on City Council's morning executive session agenda.

According to the complaint, the April 4, 2018 letter of intent (LOI) was to relocate Ross, change common areas and, "make space for new mall tenants."

The new, possible tenants that were being proposed, according to an exhibit filed with the court as part of Ross's complaint, included Kohl's, Sportsman's Warehouse and Harbor Freight.

NOTHING REMISS

"I have worked on virtually every urban renewal project for shopping centers in the last 20 years in Colorado … there is nothing in this lease that is out of the ordinary for any tenant of that same size in a shopping center," Caswell said. "There is nothing abnormal in my opinion."

On Dec. 6, 2018, Glenwood Springs City Council, in back to back 6-0 votes, approved two resolutions concerning the formation of the urban renewal authority.

The first resolution found that one or more blighted areas exist in Glenwood Springs and stated the need for the redevelopment and rehabilitation of such areas in accordance with the Colorado Urban Renewal Law. The second formally established the new West Glenwood Springs Urban Renewal Authority Plan.

"Ross read it in the newspaper," Caswell said "That is how they first learned about the [Urban Renewal Authority]."

Also, according to the court complaint, "Incorrect addresses were provided for Ross from the Owner – despite Ross providing proper notice of its change of address to Owner in January of 2014, and despite April 4, 2018, LOI containing the correct address."

Wood's attorney, Carolynne C. White of the Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law firm, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

mabennett@postindependent.com