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RiverPark theaters spark $8M dispute

By   /   Monday, December 3rd, 2012  /   Comments Off

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The dissolution of California’s redevelopment agencies has left the developers of RiverPark in Oxnard wondering where to send an $8 million check.

In a lawsuit filed Nov. 26, Ventura County Superior Court, the project’s developer, Shea Properties, allege that a dispute has broken out over $8 million they promised to pay in a deal to build movie theaters at the mixed-use project.

Shea struck a deal with city leaders in 2007. At the time, movie theaters were only allowed in Oxnard’s downtown district. To get the ordinance changed, Oxnard’s Community Development Commission said it would pay $12 million for a parking garage at Shea.

In exchange, RiverPark’s developers would pay back the city $9 million that would go toward a “Downtown Assistance Program” that would mitigate the business blow to downtown theater owners, which include Strand Cinemas, Oxnard Theatre Group and San Carlos, according to the suit. Shea has already made a $1 million payment.

But when the state dissolved redevelopment agencies earlier this year, it was unclear what should happen to the remaining $8 million, which was due one month after RiverPark’s theaters opened.

City leaders had been in negotiations with the theater owners to form a Downtown Assistance Program, but no deal had been reached. After the clock ran out on the talks, the theater owners argued they should be given the money directly, according to Shea’s lawsuit. The theater owners could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We’d been negotiating for quite a few years,” said Curtis Cannon, Oxnard’s community development direction. “Then the demise of redevelopment changed everything. Since we didn’t have a contract in place, who knows what would happen?”

Shea is asking the court to make the theater owners litigate their claims in court and let Shea deposit the funds in a court-overseen account until the parties can reach an agreement or a judge can rule on the matter.

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