Hutton files to dismiss its participation in mall lawsuit

‘We don’t know how this will go forward,’ Bemrich says

An attorney for a Tennessee developer that was seeking to create a shopping center adjacent to the Crossroads Mall filed Monday for a dismissal of the firm’s participation in a lawsuit set to be heard today in Webster County District Court.

The stipulation of dismissal was filed on behalf of Hutton Growth LLC, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, by attorney Deborah Tharnish.

Hutton had proposed tearing down the old Sears store and replacing it with a 74,300-square-foot building that would house eight stores. The company had also proposed building a 7,800-square-foot building closer to Fifth Avenue South that would house a restaurant and four stores.

But the plan stumbled on a 1963 cross-easement agreement which details various obligations owed by each property owner to the other related to parking and traffic across the two parcels, indicating that the two parcels will operate as a “single, integrated commercial development” so far as practicable.

The mall’s owners, J. Herzog & Sons Inc., of Denver, Colorado, have claimed the plan to demolish the former Sears store and build a new development would be against that agreement.

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said Monday night that the filing creates obvious questions.

“We don’t know how this will go forward,” Bemrich said. “Whatever happens, the city will continue to push for the redevelopment of the Sears property and work towards creating new retail opportunities for the community and region.”

Hutton and Blessing Enterprises LLC, of Missouri, which owns the former Sears building, in November 2016 asked the court to rule that their plans did not go against the cross-easement agreement.

A timeline for the development has never been publicly revealed.

The former Sears store at 307 S. 25th St. opened in 1964 and closed in January 2016.

In January, a judge denied a motion by Neven Mulholland, a Fort Dodge attorney representing the mall’s owner, who sought to have the case thrown out because the plans were still “conceptual.”

But Hutton and Blessing had since argued to the court that “its site plan constitutes a concrete plan for demolition and development of the property,” wrote Chief District Court Judge Kurt Wilke in his order.

Hutton and Blessing’s filing said the due diligence period set forth in their contract had already been extended, and further postponement of judicial action could delay or even cancel the project.

The hearing is scheduled to begin today at 9:45 a.m.