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Future uncertain for financially troubled Clearwater mall

Brian Hartz

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Photo: Westfield Countryside Mall

A Clearwater mall, Westfield Countryside, faces foreclosure after its owner allegedly defaulted on $155 million in mortgage loans made by Morgan Stanley seven years ago. 

According to a lawsuit filed on Dec. 29 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Amsterdam-based mall owner Uniball-Rodamco-Westfield has not made payments since May 2020, and its outstanding debt totals more than $149.7 million in principal, plus interest, late charges and other fees. 

In addition to asking for repayment in full, Rick Gross and Jourdan Haynes, the Carlton Fields attorneys representing the lender, have requested that the court appoint a receiver to operate the property until it can be sold. The suit also alleges that URW has not complied with requests to turn over rent payments that have been received from mall tenants. 

“The property and its revenue-producing potential is being subject to, or is in danger of, waste, loss, substantial diminution in value, dissipation or impairment,” the lawsuit states. “Unless a receiver is appointed, borrower will continue to commit waste to and diminish the value of Plaintiff’s collateral by, among other things, failing to turn over rent to plaintiff.”

URW’s Tampa shopping mall, Westfield Citrus Park, faces a similar court action. In that lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough County, it’s alleged that URW has defaulted on some $128 million in mortgage loans.

In a statement emailed to the St. Pete Catalyst, a URW spokesperson says the company intends to keep both malls open while it pursues a sale.

“Due to the continuing impact of the Covid pandemic,” the statement reads, “Westfield is working with the special servicer in regard to the foreclosure of Countryside and Citrus Park and, given the circumstances, believe this is the best outcome with regard to these two assets. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition to new ownership, with both centers remaining open and operating throughout the process to serve the community.”

URW’s other Tampa Bay area mall, Westfield Brandon, does not face any legal action. 

Westfield Countryside is home to a number of prominent retail chains, such as anchor tenants Dillard’s, Macy’s and JCPenney, as well as a Cobb Theatres multiplex. It also features grocery and  restaurant tenants that include Whole Foods Market and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. 

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