Aerial view of Sungrass Mills Shopping Mall outside Miami

Amid reports of two powerhouse Miami shopping malls losing foot traffic due to Florida’s coronavirus spikes, at least four retail centers are currently facing millions in unpaid construction work claims as of August 2020.

The four malls include the Esplanade at Aventura shopping center in Miami, the Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, FL, Miami’s CocoWalk Shopping Center, and at the Westfield Broward Mall in Plantation, FL. Foot traffic at the Esplanade at Aventura was down 50% by mid-July 2020, while traffic was also down 37% at the Sawgrass Mills mall.

In total, over $35M in mechanics lien claims have been placed upon these four Miami shopping malls, affecting over 50 contractors with non-payment.

According to the lien affidavits processed by the Miami-Dade County clerk’s office, the earliest known lien was filed in February 2019 in connection to the Sawgrass Mills construction. A mechanics lien helps contractors force payment by gaining a security interest on the property until it has been lifted.

While foot traffic is down and lien filings rise for these South Florida shopping malls, the COVID-19 outbreak continues to wreak havoc. As of August 25th, over 605K confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Florida.

51 Contractors File Claims on Mall Projects in Miami

Of the four shopping malls in metro Miami faced with mechanics liens, only the Westfield Broward Mall is experiencing additional debts beyond their unpaid construction claims. According to the South Florida Business Journal, the Westfield Broward Mall was late by 60 days on their $95M mortgage as of August 5, 2020.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, like many businesses, we are in the process of renegotiating the relevant aspects of our debt service agreement on the property,” explained Westfield Broward Mall management to the South Florida Business Journal in August. “The center continues to operate to serve the Broward community.”

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a total of 51 contractors have placed liens on the four metro Miami malls, with an average lien claim totaling at least $8.75M per mall.

Esplanade at Aventura in Miami

Of the four Miami shopping malls experiencing lien troubles, Esplanade at Aventura is faced with the highest lien totals at $23.1M. As of July 15, 2020, 24 different contractors placed 25 liens against the 215,00-square-foot shopping center. New York City-based property owner Seritage SRC Finance, LLC is also the owner of the Westfield Broward Mall, which is also faced with 11 unpaid work claims.

The Esplanade at Aventura, located at 19505 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL, includes a Tesla dealership, apartment complexes, a Publix grocery store, an AMC Theatre, and more. The general contractor behind the mall’s renovations, VCC, LLC, claims they are owed $10.3M as of June 19th.

Westfield Broward Mall in Plantation

The Westfield Broward Mall is currently faced with $8.8M in unpaid construction debt as of July 2020. According to the lien affidavits, 11 different contractors have placed claims against the property located at 8000 W Broward Blvd, Plantation, FL.

General contractor Rycon Construction, Inc. filed the largest lien on June 17, 2020, claiming $5.16M in unpaid work. The mall’s owner, Seritage SRC Finance, has also been subject to payment disputes at their Westfield UTC shopping mall in San Diego, CA. According to lien filings, seven additional contractors are owed $1.7M from the San Diego project as of June 29, 2020.

Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise

As of February 2019, eight contractors have placed $2.5M in combined lien claims against the Sawgrass Mills shopping mall in Sunrise. According to the Miami Herald, Sawgrass Mills is the No. 1 visitor destination in Southern Florida. The mall’s multimillion-dollar renovations are set to be completed by October 2020, with new additions to the property’s common areas.

The largest lien placed on the project was from the general contractor, Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, which claims they are owed $2,018,205.58 as of July 13, 2020. Sawgrass Mills is located at 12801 W Sunrise Blvd, Sunrise, FL.

CocoWalk Mall in Miami

Nearly $500K in payment claims have been filed at the CocoWalk Mall in Miami from eight different contractors, according to lien affidavits. The 165 thousand-square-foot outdoor shopping center, located at 3015 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove, FL, is situated on 3 acres of land. In total, $462,939.22 in mechanics lien claims have been processed against the mall as of July 23, 2020.

COVID’s Impact on Florida’s Retail Sector

Major retailers across Florida are feeling the pains of COVID-19. One of which is off-price retailer Stein Mart, a Jacksonville-based off-price retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2020 with $757.5 million in estimated assets. Stein Mart operates 281 stores in 30 states.

According to a Bloomberg report from August 2020, a LemonShark Poke seafood franchise owner in Orlando, Florida also filed for bankruptcy with $100K in estimated assets. Klausner Lumber of Live Oak, FL filed for bankruptcy on April 30, 2020 with $100M in assets, according to Bloomberg.