Big Atlanta developer sued over Calif. project

The suit, filed by Joel Ross, Eric Levine and Jerde Development Co. in federal court in New York, where they live, seeks more than $30 million from Newnan-based Thomas and one of his companies, S. Thomas Enterprises of Sacramento.

Jeff Montgomery, an attorney for Thomas, said his client disagrees with "many, if not all" the allegations and "will be providing a response."

At issue is the redevelopment of nearly 238 acres of rail yards owned by Union Pacific Corp.

Union Pacific sold the contaminated site to the plaintiffs and Thomas in 2004 for $74 million. Thomas retained a 75 percent stake in the project, while Ross, Levine and Jerde held a 22.5 percent stake, according to the 20-page complaint.

The plaintiffs allege Thomas owes them money and is not adhering to the terms of the partnership. They also claim Thomas diverted money he received for the project — including millions from the city of Sacramento as well as the state of California — to other properties and projects around the country.

Thomas, who is founder and chairman of Thomas Enterprises Inc. in Newnan, is known in metro Atlanta for his large retail centers and other developments. He has also done a number of mixed-used projects in Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and California.

His Georgia projects include the Forum Peachtree Parkway in Atlanta, Ashley Park in Newnan and the stalled Prospect Park development in Alpharetta.

The Sacramento Railyards project, which on Thursday drew praise from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of a broader plan to revitalize the state's capital downtown, aims to create 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and mixed-used, high-density housing and another 2.9 million square feet of office space, theaters, parks and hotels.

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