The seller of an 11-acre site in Remington, where Rick Walker was planning to build a shopping center — with a Walmart — called 25th Street Station, has terminated the sale and filed legal action against the developer, throwing into doubt the future of the much-debated project.
Anderson Automotive Group President Bruce Mortimer, whose family owns the site at Howard and 25th streets, is asking a Baltimore circuit judge to declare the sale legally terminated because Walker and Walmart are disputing the termination.
In a complaint for declaratory judgment filed Wednesday, Mortimer's company, Twenty Fifth Street LLC, contends that its sale agreements with WV Baltimore-24/Sisson LLC were effectively terminated in October 2012.
According to the complaint, 25th Street LLC terminated the sale agreements because WV Urban Developments, a team headed by Walker, missed its Sept. 30 deadline to complete a purchase agreement with Walmart Real Estate Business Trust, in which Walmart would commit to purchasing a portion of the properties on the site.
By then, the original sale agreement had been amended four times, the complaint states.
But four months later, on Feb. 6, 2013, Walker called Mortimer and asked if he and a Walmart broker could meet with Mortimer to discuss "the status of the Walmart purchase agreement," the complaint states.
Mortimer told them he would be happy to meet with them, "but that Mr. Walker should understand that Twenty Fifth was exploring other options to market the properties," the complaint states. But an hour later, Walker and another representative, Miroslav Vlcko, called Mortimer, and Vlcko contended that the agreements had not been terminated and that the buyers still had a contractual right to purchase the site.
Twenty Fifth Street LLC now is seeking a declaration by the court "to terminate the uncertainty and controversy and clarify the rights of the parties," according to the complaint.
In an interview Wednesday, Mortimer said he wants a court ruling "that my purchase agreement with (Walker) is no longer in effect" and that "I am out of the contract."
"It puts a cloud on my title," Mortimer said. "It doesn't mean the development won't happen, but I need to resolve this issue before I can go any further."
When asked if development of the shopping center can still go forward with Walker as the developer, Mortimer said, "Anything's possible."
Many residents of Hampden and Remington fought the controversial project, largely because of concerns about traffic and the competitive impact a big box store like Walmart would have on local hardware stores.
The city ultimately approved the development last year. Since then, Lowe's has pulled out as a potential anchor and four area residents have unsuccessfully challenged the development in the Maryland courts, which ruled that they did not have legal standing.
In an email after the complaint was filed, Walker wrote, "We have just seen the lawsuit and are not prepared to comment on it in detail. However, we are extremely disappointed that after we spent a year getting zoning approvals and more than another year defending them through three Maryland courts, all at great expense, the seller is trying to pull the rug out from under us just when we are ready to proceed.
"Walmart has hung in there with us, other retailers are on board, we have a great development team, and we are ready to get the project going," Walker continued. "We're talking about hundreds of jobs and millions (of dollars) in investment in the city and we want to finish what we started."