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Columbus residents and city officials will find out Monday what businesses are interested in moving into a vacant retail space in The Commons and what those companies would like to operate there.
The deadline for proposals is 5 p.m. Monday, and the Columbus Redevelopment Commission will receive the proposals at its 6 p.m. meeting Monday.
The process will be more open than previous efforts to find tenants for The Commons, with the process largely unfolding in meetings of public bodies such as the Redevelopment Commission and City Council. But some details will remain private to protect the companies’ confidential information.
The city is looking for a tenant or tenants to fill the vacant 5,511-square-foot space in The Commons that formerly housed Scotty’s Burger Joint and Detour American Grille & Bar. The previous city administration created an intermediary, Columbus Downtown Inc., to pursue negotiations for The Commons restaurants so the process could be completed behind closed doors and without the disclosure rules required of contracts with government bodies.
However, Mayor Kristen Brown fought against those negotiations as a private citizen and made it her mission to disband CDI and remove it from city operations when she became mayor. The mission to fill the space has fallen to the Redevelopment Commission, which contracted with Russell Development Co. this summer to market the space and assist with the bid process.
“It is imperative that we follow the law, which is what we are doing,” Brown said. “The law is a good one — that we have to do the people’s business in an open and transparent way.”
Brown said she has talked to people interested in leasing the space who were concerned about the process. But after she explained it and why the city was doing it, they were satisfied. She said she does not expect the process to affect the number or quality of bidders because many companies and people do business with the city, despite the public processes.
“We don’t have a shortage of people who want to come to work for the city government, and their compensation is made public. Everything they do is open and public,” Brown said.
“For the government, it is the cost of doing business, and it is a good one. It is a healthy one. It is the people’s money. This building was financed by the public,” the mayor said. “I get positive feedback, often, that we are not doing business in secret.”
Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director, said the proposals will be opened at the Redevelopment
Commission meeting and will then be sent to a subcommittee for review and a recommendation. The committee will include members of the City Council, Commons
Board and Redevelopment
One step that has been changed since the original process was laid out is removal of a formal vote from the Commons Board, Pope said. Instead, the two Commons Board members on the selection committee will represent the Commons Board’s interests during the process.
Pope said certain details will remain confidential including proprietary information, trade secrets, manufacturing processes and financial information. After a contract is awarded other information will be made public, including the entire contents of the contract, the dollar amount of each offer and the basis upon which the contract was awarded.
Brian Russell, president of Russell Development Co., said he has not heard any negative feedback from prospects over the city’s process. He said while the approval process is different than the process with a private landlord, it will not necessarily be longer and that other empty spaces in the downtown area have already sat vacant for much longer.
“The proof will be in the pudding Monday,” Russell said. “We have been marketing the space since Aug. 1. I feel like we have had a fair amount of interest.”
Russell said interested potential bidders have included restaurants and stores.
Russell Development was involved with the marketing and leasing of various spaces in downtown Columbus,
including Indiana Wesleyan University, Viewpoint Books, German American Bank, The Garage, Soups by Design and Reams Asset Management.
“I think there has been so much growth in our downtown that the downtown in general is drawing interest,” Russell said. “Being the center of our downtown, The Commons is a good choice for someone looking at this area.”
According to the request for bid proposals, the appraised market value lease for the space is $15.50 per square foot per year with a tenant buildout allowance of $30 per square foot or $10.50 per square foot without the buildout allowance. Scotty’s was paying $6,888 a month, or $15.50 per square foot.
The former Scotty’s restaurant space has been vacant since March. Greenhouse Restaurants LLC, owner of the local Scotty’s franchise and later Detour American Grille & Bar, feuded with the city in late 2012 over utility bills, payments over the buildout expenses of the storefront and whether to voluntarily allow its lease to be managed by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission. When the owners switched from the well-known Scotty’s chain to the new Detour restaurant, the city declared the owners to be in breach of their contract.
In March, before the matter could go before a judge, the owners closed the restaurant and moved out
What: Columbus Redevelopment Commission
When: 6 p.m., Monday
Where: City Hall Council Chambers, 123 Washington St.
Agenda: Updates on parking garage operations and on brownfield site; Commons retail space proposals; use of tax-increment financing money for sidewalks at airport, Commons fund transfer, change order for soil gas probes at 555 First St.
Commons retail process
Deadline for submission of proposals is 5 p.m. Monday. The proposals will be opened at 6 p.m. Monday by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission in a public meeting. The proposals will be transferred to a subcommittee for review.
The subcommittee will meet to discuss proposals and make a recommendation. The recommendation would be presented to the redevelopment commission at a meeting intended for November,
but complications could
If the CRC makes a decision, the proposal would be referred to legal counsel for negotiation and then would be brought back for a final vote at future meetings of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.
The City Council would have to vote twice on the contract because it would be for more than $25,000. Council could suspend the rules to approve the contract in a single meeting, however.
The tenant could move into the space and there could be tenant improvements required that were negotiated through the contract process.
In the request for proposals for a new tenant at The Commons, the Redevelopment Commission set out criteria for the review of the bids:
Activity and revenue generation
Consistent with the Arts
District Strategic Plan
Knowledge of market
A committee made up of members of City Council, Columbus Redevelopment Commission and The Commons Board will review proposals to fill the vacant retail space in The Commons after bids are opened at Monday’s Redevelopment Commission meeting. The committee will include:
George Dutro and Cheryl Buffo from the Commons Board
Ryan Brand and Tim Shuffett from the City Council
Susan Fye and Robert Abrams from the Redevelopment Commission.
The committee will be advised by Heather Pope, the city’s redevelopment director; Stan Gamso, the commission’s attorney; and Brian Russell of Russell Development Co.
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