Redevelopment to Make Subleases Public

by Kristen Brown on October 28, 2010

Source: The Republic.
City officials said they expect to make public the lease agreements between Columbus Downtown Inc. and the two restaurants in the publicly owned parking garage.

Officials so far have shielded from public view the lease agreements between CDI and the garage tenants, Garage Pub & Grill and Bistro 310, partially because they say revealing such information could scare away potential tenants.

CDI, a not-for-profit corporation created by Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg on behalf of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, handles, among other duties, the leases for the garage on Fourth Street.

The garage is being paid through a $10 million bond.

CDI controls the leases because it was awarded the master lease in a bidding process. A master lease al-lows someone to sub-lease property. CDI submitted the sole bid for the master lease.

CDI’s members — Ann DeVore, Valerie Chowning and John Elwood — are appointed by Columbus City Council, Mayor Fred Arm-strong and Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

Both The Republic and city spending critic Kristen Brown had requested, pursuant to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act, from CDI copies of the lease agreements. CDI has denied the requests, arguing that the lease agreements are private.

The Republic and Brown also have requested the same documents from Columbus Redevelopment Commission, because the master lease states that CRC must within 60 days approve or reject CDI’s subleases, such as those with Bistro 310 and Garage Pub.

Tom Vujovich, president of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, and CDI attorney Terry Coriden said Thursday that they expect to make the lease agreements available within seven to 10 business days.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Andrew Kossack ruled this week that the leases are a public record. Brown had filed a complaint with Kossack after CRC initially denied her request for copies of the leases.

Kossack wrote, “CRC cannot now claim to have approved the subleases without ever having received a copy of the sublease where the master lease explicitly requires CDI to submit a copy of the sub-lease to CRC for CRC’s approval.”

In a written statement, Vujovich said, “The Redevelopment Commission has worked aggressively to develop pro-jects that will have a long-term beneficial impact on our community. The Commission has felt, and continues to believe that the ability to negotiate in confidence and good faith is important in attracting the type of development that makes Columbus an attractive place to invest and to do business.

“We are especially concerned if the level of disclosure that some want goes beyond the requirements of the law and even worse is designed to further personal non-public agendas.

“At present, the Commission believes that the opinion of the Public Access Counselor was based on incomplete information.

“Nonetheless, it is not the Commission’s intention to violate either the spirit or letter of the law or the good faith efforts of those charged with the responsibility to interpret it.

“The filing of formal complaints does nothing to move forward the development of our downtown. It is an unnecessary, time consuming and costly distraction. While the Commission feels that the level of disclosure being requested will have a chilling effect on future development opportunities it intends to honor the request.”

Brown said, “The redevelopment commission leases the entire garage structure, including all the parking spaces and the two restaurant spaces, to CDI for $1 year. I think it’s important to understand what CDI is making from the leases since the garage and the finishing of the restaurants are paid for courtesy of the taxpayers.”

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