Columbus redevelopment officials hope to have all six of their tenant spaces filled by this summer, which would be the first time in more than a year.
Four of the spaces — three in or attached to The Commons and one on Fourth Street — leased out by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission currently are home to restaurants that benefit from downtown foot traffic during lunch and dinner hours.
Additionally, the first Orange Leaf location in Columbus is expected to open in April or May as a replacement for Snappy Tomato Pizza, which was evicted in January 2013 after going a year without paying its rent. The city tried to collect $27,237.52 in missed lease payments, other fees and late payments but settled for $18,500 as a way to move forward more quickly with a new tenant.
The redevelopment commission is still working to collect about $8,000 owed by the former tenant of the most recent vacancy, Bistro 310, as it searches for a replacement to bring that location back to life — as early as June.
Story continues below gallery
Bistro 310 owner Robin Maiani announced Dec. 20 that the restaurant was shutting its doors. The restaurant had originally opened in 2004 in the old Commons Mall and reopened at 310 Fourth St. in 2009 after being closed for a year-and-a-half.
Despite a 5-year run on Fourth Street fronting the Jackson Street Garage, Bistro couldn’t recover from slow business during the final four months of 2014, Maiani said.
When Bistro locked its doors, it left behind equipment and food in restaurant coolers, Gary Thompson, a vice president at REI Real Estate Services, told the commission. REI manages the Jackson Street Garage and the two attached tenant spaces for the commission.
During a monthly commission meeting in February, Thompson told members that Bistro still owed its December rent and payments for water and property taxes as well as payments to cover extra rent from its lease agreement — a grand total of $8,096.74.
Redevelopment commission attorney Stan Gamso told the panel in January that getting a payment from Bistro — whether in full or a lesser amount — would necessitate a negotiated settlement or litigation.
While the commission spent time going back through finances with Bistro when the restaurant was renewing its lease in September, most business operators don’t have the funds to settle back payments when they close their doors, Gamso said.
Heather Pope, the city’s director of redevelopment, said that as the commission tries to collect back payments from Bistro 310, it’s moving forward with efforts to find a replacement.
Pope obtained market rent appraisals last month and sent out a request March 2 for proposals to prospective operators who have expressed interest in the space, she said.
The commission will take proposals for the space until mid-April and review the viability of them. It’s possible the city could enter into contract negotiations with its top prospect by May, Pope said.
New restaurant operators
The landscape among downtown restaurant operators changed in January when commission members learned that Jordy McTaggart’s had been sold about seven months after it opened.
Tim Rohrer and Dave Barker, the principal shareholders in Jordy’s Inc., opened the restaurant in June but sold all their interest and stock to Mark and Richard Wilcox.
Mark Wilcox owns Scores Sports Bar and Grill, located at 3539 W. Two Mile House Road, on Columbus’ west side.
Gamso told commission members the sale would not require any lease changes because it has contracted with Jordy’s Inc., not any specific operator, he said.
Rohrer and Baker gave Wilcox and his father, Richard, a good foundation for the restaurant to build on, said Wilcox, who is not planning any major changes for the downtown establishment.
Wilcox said he looked forward to building a good relationship with the city and keeping Jordy McTaggart’s on Washington Street as a good destination for food and fun.
Meanwhile, The Commons will get a new tenant in coming months in a space that has been vacant for slightly more than a year.
Andy Russell and Brent Devers, both graduates of Columbus North High School, will bring an Orange Leaf franchise to the community gathering space. Russell would be the owner, and Devers would manage the store.
Orange Leaf is an Oklahoma-based self-serve frozen yogurt company that offers 70 flavors for franchises to rotate through self-serve machines. The outlets also provide a toppings bar for people to customize their sweet treats.
Russell and Devers got initial approval for their plan in February from the redevelopment commission, and Russell and Mayor Kristen Brown, also president of the commission, signed a lease for the space March 5.
The location in The Commons — across from the Luckey Climber indoor playground — will have seven machines, each with a different flavor, Russell said. After choosing their selections, customers then go through a checkout line to pay.
Russell and Devers intend to invest about $160,000 to transform the 678-square-foot, quick-service food space. One key change will be that customers will be able to access the inside of the restaurant space, rather than just getting their food from a quick-serve window.
The redevelopment commission received Russell’s proposal after marketing the space with a commercial broker when it failed twice to find a tenant through issuing requests for proposals.
That’s a process the commission must go through because it is a public entity.
And though the process is required, it takes more time than the commission would like, city councilman Frank Jerome said.
Jerome, also the commission’s vice president, said the panel seems to take a lot of time finding new tenants and dealing with leases.
Additionally, the commission seems to have a chronic problem with its leases, he said, describing it as a “black hole” for the city’s time and money.
“We never seem to get ahead of it,” Jerome said.
While Jerome said he would prefer that the commission not be in the rental business, there’s no way out of it.
Brown said given the significant public investment in the spaces — hundreds of thousands of dollars ——in publicly owned buildings, the commission can’t back out of its role as landlord.
Garage Pub & Grill: Initial lease for annual payments of $55,080 on the 4,590-square-foot space expires June 6, 2016.
Puccini’s Smiling Teeth: Puccini’s pays $42,880 a year for its 2,680-square-foot space on a seven-year lease that expires in 2018.
Subway: Subway pays $32,400 a year on a five-year lease for its 1,249-square-foot space in the food court of The Commons
Jordy McTaggart’s: Jordy’s Inc. has a 10-year lease with the city for annual payments of $60,621 for its 5,511-square-foot space on Washington Street
310 Fourth St.: The 3,774-square-foot space attached to the Jackson Street Garage currently is vacant.
302 Washington St.: This 678-square-foot space in the food court of The Commons has been vacant for more than a year, but Andy Russell has signed a 5-year lease with the city paying $10 per square foot for an Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt shop.
The city has obtained market-rent appraisals for 310 Fourth St. and sent out a request for proposals to fill the space to interested parties, also posting it on the redevelopment department’s web page. Proposals are due in April, at which point they will undergo a review process before going before the Columbus Redevelopment Commission to authorize contract negotiations.
The redevelopment commission has signed a lease with Andy Russell, who has proposed an Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt shop for the vacant space in The Commons. Russell now has to do a build-out of the space before the shop can open in April or May.