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Cypress Creek Town Center hits another snag

WESLEY CHAPEL — A contractor has sued Cypress Creek Town Center over unpaid fees as the mall site sits dormant with environmental problems.

Tampa-based Kearney Construction Co. LLC filed a lawsuit against the Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. and companies it operates, as well as three companies controlled by John Sierra, who sold the 100-acre retail site.

Kearney accuses the Richard E. Jacobs Group Inc. of wrongfully terminating its contracts and refusing to pay $1.6-million for work it did after changes were put in place to protect Cypress Creek from muddy stormwater runoff.

The 65-page lawsuit, filed in circuit court, also said the developer repeatedly changed the directions given to Kearney regarding best management practices and failed to keep the company informed.

Kearney is also seeking damages, attorney fees and a release of liability from its two contracts.

Lawyers from Kearney and Cypress Creek Town Center declined to comment. However, Cypress Creek spokeswoman Deanne Roberts said it will not affect the mall's construction plans.

"It has no bearing … on the developer's intent or commitment to resume construction on this project as soon as the permitting authorities allow," she said.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of challenges facing the proposed mall, one of the largest retail projects in the Tampa Bay area. In April, it was indefinitely placed on hold, putting at risk more than $150-million in financial commitments and thousands of promised jobs.

Beset by problems with an environmental permit, the Jacobs Group, developer of the 1-million-square-foot project, and its prospective tenants agreed to halt construction at the site at Interstate 75 and State Road 56.

The stoppage came in waves, beginning in mid February when work ceased on an area earmarked for a Target store.

The mall, projected to generate 4,000 jobs and more than $9-million in yearly tax revenue, was scheduled to open in October, in time for the holiday season. The Web site now says it will open in October 2009.

Meanwhile, rivals are already in full swing or are getting ready to open. The Grove at Wesley Chapel began opening some stores last fall and recently celebrated the grand opening of the Cobb 16 Theatres and Cinebistro. It is located at Oakley Boulevard and Interstate 75.

The Shops at Wiregrass, at State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, is preparing for its big grand opening Oct. 30, with two of the three anchors, Macy's and Dillard's, planning for Oct. 25 openings. JCPenney, also an anchor, opened in 2005.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Cypress Creek Town Center hits another snag 10/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 20, 2008 5:43pm]
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