Ocean Mall tenant ready for fight

RIVIERA BEACH The wrecking ball will still swing at the Ocean Mall even if builder Dan Catalfumo fails to reach an agreement with three tenants to vacate the beachfront property.

Catalfumo wants them out by the end of the month and has vowed to build the new multimillion-dollar mall around them, said Joey Eichner, senior vice president with Catalfumo Construction and Development.

"The negotiations with the three remaining tenants will not hold up development," Eichner said Tuesday.

"We can build around them. I don't expect to do that, but I can."

The three tenants - Portofino Italian Grill, 7-Eleven and Subway - have anywhere from four to 14 years left on their current mall leases. The company has been working for months to empty the mall of its last 15 tenants.

Most of them have left because their leases have expired. Under his deal with the city, Catalfumo has a 50-year lease on the 11-acre site.

Portofino's Solomon Kedmi said he isn't leaving without a fight.

Kedmi, whose restaurant has been at the mall for 30 years, said he has yet to receive anything in writing outlining the terms of his departure.

"The biggest headache is me," said Kedmi, referring to the 14 years remaining on his mall lease. "This is a business where we make money. Someone is going to have to come in here and make me an offer."

Kedmi also said that even if he were to strike a deal with Catalfumo, his lease gives him 90 days to relocate.

The lease also entitles him to 7,000 square feet - the same amount of space currently used for his restaurant - in the new mall.

While the talks are ongoing, the company is proceeding with its plans even if the businesses fail to agree to move, Eichner said.

Demolition of the 1970s beachfront institution will happen in mid-May, he said.

In 2006, Catalfumo struck a deal with the city to redevelop the Ocean Mall on Singer Island. He plans to replace it with 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

He also has plans to build a five-story hotel on the site, after the retail space is built.

Catalfumo had wanted to build a 28-story hotel, but voters rejected the plan by limiting its height to five stories.

Construction of the new mall is expected to take a year, with the goal of opening in May 2009.

Ted Pappas, owner of the Subway, said his negotiations with Catalfumo are progressing smoothly. Pappas, who has 41/2 years left on his lease, expects to reach a deal in coming weeks.

"We're still talking and I believe it's going to work out," said Pappas, who has run the Subway at the mall for 20 years.