RENTON, Wash. — The owner of a major shopping center south of Seattle is suing Amazon, alleging that the company attempted to terminate its lease for a proposed Amazon Fresh grocery store under false pretenses.
The lawsuit by the Boston-based owner of The Landing shopping center in Renton, Wash., claims that Amazon’s contractual basis for seeking the termination was a thinly veiled cover for the fact that the store no longer fit within its larger retail strategy, after the company paused the rollout of its Amazon Fresh stores.
“All of Tenant’s asserted grounds were false and contrived, and Tenant asserted them for the purpose of effectuating its publicly acknowledged strategy of slowing growth of its grocery operations and avoiding its binding legal commitments relating to its grocery operations,” reads the suit, filed Monday in King County Superior Court in Seattle.
The suit seeks damages of at least $14 million, including unpaid rent that the landlord says Amazon owes.
The company declined to comment on the details of pending litigation.
Amazon is in a similar dispute in the Philadelphia suburbs with the owner of another proposed Amazon Fresh location. The landlord there alleges that Amazon has failed to pay the required rent. Lawyers for Amazon have reportedly filed a countersuit there, saying that the landlord hasn’t met the terms of that lease agreement.
Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO, said in February that Amazon was pausing the expansion of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores, amid broader cutbacks, “until we have that equation with differentiation and economic value that we like.”
At the same time, he said grocery remains an “important and strategic area” for the company long-term.
“Like any retailer, we periodically assess our portfolio of stores and make optimization decisions that can lead to closing existing locations or choosing not to pursue building a planned location,” said Jessica Martin, an Amazon spokesperson, in an emailed response to GeekWire’s inquiry Tuesday afternoon.
At least seven newly built Amazon Fresh locations in the U.S. were sitting empty as of December, as Amazon reined in its grocery expansion, according to a report by The Information at the time, referring to them as “zombie” stores.
Amazon has five existing Amazon Fresh stores in Seattle, and more than 40 nationwide.
The 40,000-square-foot store in Renton, at 915 N. Landing Way, was previously a Dick’s Sporting Goods. Plans for the Amazon Fresh store in Renton don’t appear to have been publicly reported before the lawsuit surfaced this week.
The property owner, which goes by the name CPC The Landing LLC, says in the suit that it spent more than $2.1 million on improvements under the Amazon lease, which was signed in December 2021.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon’s November 2022 termination letter said the company wasn’t satisfied with its ability to obtain permits required under the lease, and asserted that the landlord hadn’t provided a required waiver from a nearby Marshalls department store consenting to Amazon’s use of the building.
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon “did not make commercially reasonable and good faith efforts to obtain the permits and approvals,” and says the property owner “has performed all conditions, covenants and promises on its part to be performed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Lease.”
Read the full text of the lawsuit below.
Cpt the Landing, Llc v. Amazon Retail Llc by GeekWire on Scribd