Owners of the Fuddruckers location on International Drive are suing their landlord — President Donald Trump’s business partner Michael Dezer — over Dezer’s plan to convert the former Artegon Marketplace shopping mall into an auto museum and tourist attraction.
The mall and its former owners, Lightstone Group, attracted lawsuits when Lightstone abruptly threw most tenants out in January 2017. A movie theater, a Bass Pro Shop and the Fuddruckers have separate entrances and are still open.
At least eight former tenants and Fuddruckers filed suit against Lightstone. The Fuddruckers franchisee, Blue Hills International, recently decided to add Dezer’s company, Dezer Orlando Center LLC, as a defendant.
According to the new claims in the lawsuit, the Fuddruckers location will suffer harm or loss of business by any rezoning, attempts to force it out of the space or “any demolition/destruction of the Common Areas of Artegon Marketplace Orlando for any purpose inconsistent with a retail mall/shopping center use” or by any signage that implies the location is not in business.
Fuddruckers is arguing that Dezer’s company assumed the leases when it bought the property. But attorneys for Dezer haven’t answered the lawsuit formally yet.
Dezer’s general manager in Orlando, Michael Rich, told Orlando Weekly
in December that he plans to open early 2019 as a limited auto dealership — which he said is allowed as a light retail use there.
Lightstone is pushing back against the lawsuits, arguing that the leases gave it “wide latitude in making future changes to the shopping center and which expressly limits Fuddruckers’ rights to complain about such changes.”
The mall itself sat empty for a year until Dezer came along and bought it, on 100 acres in the heart of Orlando’s tourism corridor, for nearly $24 million. Almost immediately, he started moving his massive car collection from Miami to the former mall and planned to open a variety of attractions there, including a go-cart track and vintage pinball museum.
He quickly ran into trouble with the city of Orlando, which started fining him for lack of permits or zoning for an auto museum. Some of those issues were settled in December, but the city is still seeking more detailed plans about Dezer’s plans for the Orlando development.
According to Rich, Dezer has long-term plans to build apartments and more retail on the perimeter of the mall property.
Dezer was known for building multiple “Trump Tower” condos in South Florida and also recently the luxurious Porsche Tower in Miami, where units have their own car elevator and garage.
Dezer has put up signs declaring the property to be "Dezerland Action Park, including the Orlando Auto Museum."
Dezer has one of the most extensive private vehicle collections in the world, including a Vespa collection, and one of the world’s largest James Bond collections. His museum in South Florida had a section dedicated to the James Bond movie From Russia With Love
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.