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$300,000 fee gets final nod

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An agreement between the developer of The Cole apartments and the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, approved unanimously Monday night by the commission, ends a lingering and highly contentious dispute about a $300,000 fee the city has owed the developer.

The commission and Buckingham Cole LLC agreed to a timetable of five $60,000 annual no-interest payments from the city to the developer. In exchange, the developer will rent 200 parking spaces from the city in the Second Street parking garage at a starting cost of $50 a month for each space, or $120,000 a year.

The $50-per-parking-space lease is substantially higher than the prices under the original agreements with Buckingham, which would have charged between $17 and $19 a space, commission members said.

Redevelopment Commission Attorney Stan Gamso said the city would have the ability to revisit the number of spaces taken by The Cole after the first year. Mayor Kristen Brown said city officials hope the company uses fewer than the 200 spaces set aside for the first year.

“The fewer spaces they take, the better, because we have a huge appetite from the public to use those parking spaces,” Brown said.

City Councilman Frank Jerome, a member of the Redevelopment Commission, said he had some reservations about that part of the deal because the city has no ability to stop Buckingham from renting the parking spaces out to residents of The Cole or to retail space tenants for more than the $50 a month, netting a profit. Company representatives said in August that residential tenants would pay $150 a month for a parking space.

Members of the previous city administration’s Redevelopment Commission and Columbus Downtown Inc., set up by former Mayor Fred Armstrong, approved the $300,000 payment to Buckingham for architectural fees to secure the deal that brought the apartment complex to downtown Columbus.

Board members of Columbus Downtown Inc., a nonprofit company created to facilitate downtown development, agreed to the $300,000 payment in 2009 and again in 2011.

The money was supposed to be paid to Buckingham in March 2011.

However, the Brown administration could not find in its reviews of the minutes from CDI or the previous Redevelopment Commission that a vote had ever been conducted approving the expenditure. Brown and City Council members initially questioned the propriety of making such a payment.

Before winning the election, the mayor campaigned against the use of CDI for development purposes, sought to set up her own nonprofit company to compete for the contract CDI eventually won and has made the dismantling of CDI one of her first-year priorities.

City officials eventually came to agree that the city did appear to be obligated to make the $300,000 payment and began negotiating terms of how to process it.

The parking price structure and the $300,000 repayment were approved Monday on a 5-0 vote.

Contract details

Columbus Redevelopment Commission and Buckingham Cole LLC agreed to a parking deal for the Second Street parking garage that would settle a $300,000 debt the city agreed to pay the company to enable development of The Cole apartments.

Among the details of the agreement:

Buckingham will have exclusive use of 200 parking spaces in the parking garage.

The city will pay Buckingham $60,000 a year, for five years, beginning no later than Dec. 31, 2013.

Buckingham will pay $50 a month per parking space for the first five years of Buckingham’s use of the spaces.

After the fifth anniversary of Buckingham’s use of the parking spaces, the fee will increase by an amount tied to the consumer price index.

After the seventh anniversary of Buckingham’s use of the garage, the parking space fee will increase to the amount the city spends to maintain the parking garage, or to the amount tied to the consumer price index, whichever is less.

Buckingham will pay for signs identifying its parking spaces.

The city will manage and maintain the parking garage.

Interest-free loans finalized

The Redevelopment Commission on Monday approved the repayment of two $500,000 interest-free loans, used for development in the new and old Commons buildings.

The first, from The Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, was used to help outfit Scotty’s Burger Joint and Puccini’s Smiling Teeth restaurants in The Commons. The second, from Cummins Foundation, was used to revamp the space in the former Commons Mall that became the Indiana University Center for Art & Design — Columbus.

The city will pay $125,000 a year for each loan out of money raised by the city’s tax increment financing districts, Redevelopment Director Heather Pope said.

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