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Lawsuit offers insight into Sears closure at Palm Beach County mall

Sears at Gardens Mall on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach County has closed after 36 years.
Joel Engelhardt
Stet Palm Beach
Sears at Gardens Mall on PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach County has closed after 36 years.

After 36 years at the Gardens Mall, one of the original anchor stores, Sears, has closed.

The decision came suddenly last week as Sears’ successor, Transform Operating Stores LLC, continued to argue in Palm Beach County Circuit Court that the mall on PGA Boulevard and the city conspired to block Sears from making money by leasing its second floor to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Having accomplished its goal of destroying the Dick’s sublease, the Forbes Parties (by their own admission) are waiting in the hopes that Transform goes out of business and … pressure Transform into selling its interest in the Sears Building to Forbes,” a 2023 legal filing said. 

“Ultimately, the Forbes Parties’ goal, as it has been for years, is to get rid of the Sears store and recapture/redevelop the Sears property itself.”

Transform won the first round of the lawsuit in 2017. The court cleared the way for Dick’s to lease the space and ordered Palm Beach Gardens to pay Transform $625,000 in legal fees for its role in blocking Dick’s.

The decision came before Dick’s announced it would not sell guns at the Gardens Mall store. 

But further efforts to open a Dick’s store failed as Forbes refused to sign off on paperwork needed for city approvals. The second round of litigation began in 2019.

The court has scheduled a two-week trial in August on claims rising from that dispute.

Transform, of the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Ill., still had 34 years remaining on its lease, court records reveal. Transform didn’t issue a statement or return requests for comment.

The mall, owned by the Forbes Co. of Southfield, Mich., issued a statement confirming Sears’ closing and saying it was working with its partners “to announce new plans for the repurposing of the two-level retail space.” The partners were not identified.

While the lawsuit remains unresolved, lawyers for Transform spelled out in a July 2023 filing three objectives behind Forbes’ continued resistance to Sears: free the Gardens Mall of Sears, an anchor tenant that no longer satisfies the Forbes' luxury vision; free Forbes of Transform’s below-market fixed rent payment schedule that continues until 2058 unless Transform is ousted; and allow Forbes to demolish the Sears building and redevelop it so Forbes can reap substantial profits.

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