Conestoga Mall redeveloper sues AMC to vacate property
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The redevelopers of the Conestoga Mall have filed a civil lawsuit against AMC Theaters in Hall County Court on Friday.
According to court records, Woodsonia claims that despite terminating AMC’s lease, the movie theater has not surrendered the premises and refuses to leave.
Back on March 3, Woodsonia closed the deal on the mall property taking over the lease agreements of 41 tenants.
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As of the time the lawsuit was filed, Woodsonia said it had successfully negotiated amendable solutions with 34 of the 37 other tenants at the mall, some of which included early lease terminations and relocation agreements.
During the March 2023 Community Redevelopment Authority meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss threatened litigation for condemnation of three leasehold interests at the mall.
According to the agenda packet, those tenants were AMC, Best Buy and JoAnn Fabric and Crafts.
The CRA voted to hire legal counsel to begin condemnation proceedings as well as approve the use of eminent domain power.
In the resolution, it says that “if Woodsonia is unable to reach a workout regarding the termination of the leases by March 17, 2023, the Authority shall begin the negotiations and the process of exercising its eminent domain powers.”
That includes taking and terminating the lease, paying the fair market value of the remainder of the lease minus the rent the tenant would have had to pay, along with relocation costs.
On April 7, Joann filed a lawsuit against Woodsonia in Hall County District Court, asking for $2.4 million. The store claims Woodsonia is illegally breaking the store’s lease and points to plans by the CRA to use eminent domain to acquire the store space. They claim that using eminent domain is a wrongful tactic to break the lease.
In the lawsuit between Woodsonia and AMC, it states from September 2022 through March 2023, Woodsonia made numerous attempts to negotiate with AMC, without success.
It was then on March 8, lawyers for Woodsonia sent a letter via certified mail to AMC in Leawood, Kanas as well as via email to the director of real estate for AMC, to notify them of them of the redevelopment of the Conestoga Mall and “to negotiate a mutual and amicable termination of AMC’s Lease.”
That letter also included another letter containing a settlement offer, which AMC did not accept.
The lawsuit goes on to say on March 30, AMC’s lawyer sent an email to Woodsonia apologizing “for our delay in addressing the important issue raised by” the March 8 letter.
One day later, the CRA delivered to AMC and its legal counsel a notice of its intention “to exercise eminent domain powers to take AMC’s entire leasehold interest in exchange for fair compensation as defined and provided by the Nebraska Constitution and laws.”
Following the vote by the CRA back on March 15, the CRA and Woodsonia mutually terminated AMC’s lease on March 31, 2023.
Then on April 4, Woodsonia served AMC with the ‘Three Day Notice to Quit’ as well as the ‘Notice of the Termination of their Lease.’
Court documents say the ‘Notice to Quit’ was hand delivered to the Grand Island AMC manager, posted on the two main entryways as well through email to AMC’s director of real estate and their legal counsel.
Woodsonia claims that more than three days have elapsed since the service of the ‘Notice to Quit,’ and AMC has refused to surrender the premises.
On April 12, AMC’s lawyer notified lawyers for Woodsonia that “AMC has temporarily ceased operating the theatre.”
Yet, Woodsonia says as of April 14, they conducted an inspection of the premises and personally observed that AMC is still wrongfully detaining and occupying the premises.
On Friday, Woodsonia along with Grand Island city leaders broke ground on the future Conestoga Marketplace with work beginning on the north end of the property.
Woodsonia is asking for AMC to vacate the Conestoga Mall, which is approximately 17,000 square feet, as well as pay for any court costs and attorney fees related to this lawsuit.
A hearing is scheduled on April 27 at 2 p.m. in Hall County Court.
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