Developer withdraws from deal with Southside mall owner

A land deal for a planned $40 million Stony Point apartment project is off the table.

Atlanta-based Wood Partners has pulled out of a contract to buy 27 acres north of Stony Point Fashion Park, according to a letter submitted last week in Richmond Circuit Court filings.

The developer planned to build 282 apartments at the site until legal wrangling between land owner Taubman Centers and the surrounding neighborhood became a growing obstacle.

Wood Partners was under contract to buy the plot, which sits just northwest of the mall’s Dillard’s store. The company was set to pay $5.5 million in a deal scheduled to close June 27. It pulled out of the agreement after a Richmond Circuit Court judge issued an order preventing Taubman from selling the land, court records show.

Wood Partners’ development director Carter Siegel and general counsel Sean Reynolds did not returns calls and emails seeking comment on the terminated deal.

The developer’s letter announcing its decision to walk away from the land was filed last Thursday, one day before the purchase was set to close.

The apartment project, dubbed Alta Stony Point, has stirred up controversy since last fall as several Stony Point-area neighborhood associations complained about the planned residential use and the complex’s density.

Land use on the site is governed by the 40-year-old Stony Point Community Unit Plan, which was amended by the Richmond Planning Commission and City Council in November despite neighborhood opposition.

Huguenot Farms Area Association claimed it struck an agreement with Taubman more than a decade ago limiting potential development on the 27-acre site to office and light retail or restaurant uses. The group argued that agreement was enforceable despite last year’s city council and planning commission decisions.

In May, the Huguenot Farms group filed a lawsuit alleging Taubman would breach that agreement by selling the land to Wood Partners for apartments. With the sale imminent, the group won a temporary injunction to prevent Wood Partners form buying the land. It had then hoped to eventually earn a court-ordered permanent ban on a sale of the property for residential development.

Taubman, which is in the process of selling Stony Point Fashion Park, then asked the Virginia Supreme Court to throw the injunction out. The Supreme Court sided with the Michigan-based mall owner and vacated the injunction on June 26, the same day that Wood Partners told Taubman it would be terminating the deal.

Nico Shultz, Taubman’s development director who received Wood Partners’ termination letter, did not respond to an email on the status of the land sale.

Michael Lacy, the Troutman Sanders attorney representing Taubman, did not return a phone message by press time.

In light of Wood Partners pulling out of the land deal, Spencer LLP attorney and the neighborhood association’s legal counsel Mark Shuford said the group will restructure the lawsuit to ask for a declaratory judgment. A judge could then issue a decision clarifying the nature of Taubman and the neighborhood’s agreement for future cases.

“There is no longer a basis for our claim of breach of contract, because the deal between Taubman and Wood Partners – at least on the face of it – is off,” he said.

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