The developer of a planned Lucky’s Market in Clearwater has gone to court against supermarket giant The Kroger Co.
In a lawsuit filed April 1 in federal court in Tampa, Gulf to Bay LM LLC is asking that Kroger be ordered to complete the project.
Lucky’s had expected to open the store on April 29, 2020, the lawsuit said. Instead, the structure is only partially finished. Metal fences block the entrances to the surrounding shopping center, and the storefronts in it are empty.
Cincinnati-based Kroger (NYSE: KR) has not yet filed a court response and did not respond to a request for comment from the St. Pete Catalyst.
The lawsuit is the latest fallout from the January bankruptcy filing by Lucky’s Market, a Colorado-based specialty organic grocery chain. Lucky’s closed most of its stores, including its store at Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg. Hitchcock’s Markets has won a bid for that location in bankruptcy court.
Gulf to Bay is part of Greenleaf Capital, a subsidiary of Tampa-based HCI Group (NYSE: HCI). The company signed a lease agreement in June 2018 to develop a Lucky’s Market at 2150 Gulf to Bay Blvd, the lawsuit said. The grocery store was intended to serve as the anchor tenant for a new, upscale 57,000 shopping center complex owned by Gulf to Bay.
Kroger, which had invested in Lucky’s in 2016, “unconditionally guaranteed” all of Lucky’s obligations under the lease, the lawsuit said.
But in late December, as the Clearwater project entered a critical phase of construction, Kroger ended its investment in Lucky’s and Lucky’s issued a stop order to the general contractor on the Clearwater project. The work stoppage left the roof, walls and floors unfinished and exposed, the lawsuit said. Lucky’s said it would secure the property but had not done so by April 1, when the lawsuit was filed.
A month later, on Jan. 22, the general contractor, Snyder Construction, filed a lien against the property, asking for nearly $902,000 for unpaid labor, services and materials.
In the lawsuit, Gulf to Bay is demanding judgment against Kroger for breach of its guarantee. Gulf to Bay is asking the court to order Kroger to complete the construction of the project and obtain unconditional lien waivers from all contractors, suppliers and manufacturers involved with it.
“A substantial threat of irreparable injury to Gulf to Bay exists if Kroger is not required to perform Lucky’s non-monetary obligations under the lease,” the lawsuit said.
Gulf to Bay also is asking for an unspecified amount of monetary damages and said it asserts a right to assert a claim against Lucky’s in bankruptcy court.