Six Flags Mall owner says Arlington has nixed Hispanic shopping center

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Eight months after buying the long-troubled Six Flags Mall property on Division Street, Fort Worth antique dealer G.L. “Buck” Harris is suing the city of Arlington alleging that it violated his due process by preventing him from pursuing development plans to turn the property into a Hispanic-oriented shopping center called Plaza Central.

Harris filed the lawsuit in federal court in Dallas on Wednesday, claiming that the city violated his rights when it “abruptly stopped issuing permits” for the project and has “refused” to tell him why.

Harris could not be reached for comment Friday, and his attorney, Frank Hill in Arlington, declined to comment.

Jay Doegey, Arlington’s city attorney, said he is surprised that Harris filed the lawsuit because city staff is working the project through the development process. He said the city staff has met with Harris more than once about the issues.

According to the lawsuit, in June 2012, Harris met with the city’s planning and development officials to discuss his idea for the mall and see if there were any problems with the property, according to the suit.

When no issues arose, Harris paid $5 million to the International Bank of Commerce and closed the deal Nov. 20. Over the next five months, Harris spent another $1.5 million in renovations on the property, located on the east side of Texas 360.

In May, though, the property was “flagged,” and Harris was no longer issued permits, the lawsuit says. In a meeting that month with city inspectors and a city attorney, Harris said, he was told the property needed to be re-platted, there were problems with parking, and that he needed to file landscape plans for portions of the property he didn’t own, the lawsuit says.

Harris said the meeting was “adversarial in tone” and that immediately following it, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized.

According to the lawsuit, Harris has signed leases with at least 140 tenants.

“Harris had no intention of buying Six Flags Mall and investing millions of dollars if problems existed that would delay the issuance of permits to renovate and have tenants occupy the premises,” the lawsuit says.

Doegey said when city staff first met with Harris a year ago, they were unaware that the property had not been re-platted since two anchor sites had been sold and parking lot areas subdivided. The city later told Harris that needed to be done, and early last month Harris filed a proposed property plat. “That’s been going through the development process,” Doegey said.

Doegey said the review process will not stop as a result of the lawsuit.

The former Foley’s and Sears anchor spaces are owned by different investors. The Foley’s space last changed hands in 2009. Dillard’s owns its anchor space and operates a clearance center on the first floor, and Cinemark still operates a theater.

Harris bought the nearly 364,000-square-foot center portion of the former mall and the former J.C. Penney anchor site from the International Bank of Commerce, which foreclosed in 2008 on former owner Tom Morris, who had defaulted on an $11.7 million note. In 2011, the bank attempted to sell the property at auction.

Harris said when he bought the property that once the mall is up and running, he planned to donate it to a Christian volunteer group, Youth with a Mission.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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