Stratford Square lawsuit dismissed as Bloomingdale continues effort to acquire mall
As Bloomingdale leaders work to acquire the remaining pieces of Stratford Square Mall, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the village by the owner of the main mall space.
Namdar Realty Group, the New York-based commercial real estate firm that owns the interior portion of the mall and the vacant JCPenney box, tried to sue Bloomingdale to get money from a 1% sales tax on all purchases at the shopping center.
A DuPage County judge, however, dismissed Namdar's lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled. An attorney for the firm did not respond to a request for comment.
The resolution of the lawsuit comes after the village purchased vacant department store buildings around the languishing mall to facilitate a full-scale redevelopment of Stratford Square.
Bloomingdale is trying to exercise its powers of eminent domain to take over the core of the 1980s-era mall. The village filed a separate condemnation lawsuit aimed at acquiring the property.
"The obstacle left that we need to overcome - and then we can begin to work on finalizing our redevelopment plan and then implementing it - is the eminent domain case against Namdar," Village Administrator Pietro Scalera said. "Once we are able to get over that hurdle, we will be able to begin working toward turning that area around for the village, for the community and the residents."
To date, the village has acquired the former Carson's, Burlington and Sears parcels along with the strip of land commonly referred to as the "canoe" property along Springfield Drive. Most recently, the village closed on the purchase of the Sears property for $2.8 million in September.
The village also filed a condemnation lawsuit targeting Kohl's - the mall's last anchor store.
"We are working with Kohl's in regards to them remaining part of the new redevelopment of the area," Scalera said.
Residential developers, businesses and restaurateurs have expressed interest in a re-imagined Stratford Square, officials say. Bloomingdale leaders envision a large, green community gathering area surrounded by restaurants and entertainment or recreational offerings.
"The main reason why the village is looking to assemble all of the properties ourselves is that the mayor and the board feel strongly that if we control all of the properties, we can then control the type of development and uses that are put into that area that will benefit our community," Scalera said.
Namdar argued in its lawsuit that the village was illegally withholding payments from the Stratford Business District, the area where the additional sales tax is collected.
However, the village argued that Namdar did not have legal standing to sue because it was not part of a redevelopment agreement approved when Bloomingdale established the district in 2007.
The mall's previous owners received payments from the district to recoup some of its investment in Stratford Square.
"In the contract, it said that if those owners ultimately sold to another party, that the village would have the ability to approve or deny the transfer" of the sales tax sharing agreement, Scalera said.
Namdar acquired the core mall property in October 2019 and asked the village to transfer the agreement to its company.
"However, in order to do that, we first would like them to provide us with a plan on how they were going to redevelop the mall, attract new businesses and fill a number of the vacancies that had taken place in the mall," Scalera said. "They've never done that. So we've withheld that money from them."
That pot of money collected under the tax is about $1 million, he said.
"I am pleased the circuit court agreed with the village's position," Village President Franco Coladipietro said in a statement. "The dismissal further reinforces the village's decision to take action in implementing a redevelopment plan for the mall."
A Jan. 23 court date is scheduled for the eminent domain case involving the main mall interior and the former JCPenney store. The case against Kohl's is back in court on Jan. 11. But officials hope to reach a resolution with Kohl's before that.
• Daily Herald staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report