Hammond contends Woodmar developer 'misrepresented' ability to finance project

2013-03-09T18:30:00Z 2013-03-09T23:52:05Z Hammond contends Woodmar developer 'misrepresented' ability to finance projectChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The Hammond Redevelopment Commission is holding payment of $475,000 in incentives from the developer of the Woodmar Mall site after the city argued several breaches were made in the project's development agreement.

The commission's attorney sent the developer, George Markopoulos of Northbrook, Ill.-based Praedium Development Corp., a letter in October listing six ways he had breached his agreement on the site and gave him 30 days to respond to how he would correct the issues.

Five months later, the city is still waiting for a response, according to David Westland, Hammond Redevelopment Commission attorney.

Markopoulos breached the contract because he “misrepresented his ability to finance and complete the project,” according to the letter, which noted outstanding obligations for materials, labor and supplies.

“We've had some phone conversations with him, but he's not sent back any official response,” said Phil Taillon, executive director of the city's Department of Planning and Development.

The project included construction of a 12,000-square-foot retail complex, resurfacing of the parking lot and demolition of the old Woodmar sign at Indianapolis Boulevard and 165th Street. A Subway sandwich shop became the first tenant of the complex this summer and a beauty supply store has expressed interest in locating at the site.

While city officials said in July that Markopoulos appeared close to meeting a critical deadline in the agreement requiring the project to be at least 75 percent complete, deficiencies were found upon further review, Taillon said.

Last month Rieth-Riley, which completed contract work at the site, sued the developer seeking compensation for unpaid work, court records show. The company filed separate lawsuits against Woodmar Hammond LLC and Prairie Common Holdings LLC, which both list Markopoulos as manager.

The suits seek a combined $277,171 in payments, along with interest accrued, for asphalt work.

Rieth-Riley also wants the Redevelopment Commission to garnish the incentives the developer was in line to receive to pay the outstanding obligations, court records state.

In all, the Redevelopment Commission approved $950,000 in incentives for the project if certain deadlines were met and already has released the first half of the money.

Both suits request the court find liens against the property and that the property be sold to satisfy the lien, Rieth-Riley attorney Patrick Mysliwy said.

Markopoulos and his attorney did not return requests for comment as of Friday.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the city feels Markopoulos isn't entitled to the second incentive payment, and he expects the matter to be litigated.

“I would like to see somebody else own the property, personally,” McDermott said. “I don't think Mr. Markopoulos is ever going to be able to get this done financially.

"This obviously is a sensitive issue with Hammond residents, and Hammond wants to see this location be successful. It's frustrating to me as mayor. It's out of my control really.”

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