West Chester Activity Center sale canceled

West Chester Township trustees will put the former activity center back on the market after negotiations with Kroger's landlord, Regency Centers, failed last year. Regency had offered to pay $1.8 million. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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West Chester Township trustees will put the former activity center back on the market after negotiations with Kroger's landlord, Regency Centers, failed last year. Regency had offered to pay $1.8 million. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

It’s déjà vu all over again with the West Chester Twp. Activity Center after Dr. Mohamed Aziz backed out of the $1.9 million purchase because the building needs too much work.

The West Chester trustees agreed last month to sell the former Activity Center on Cox Road to the same doctor who sued them a few years ago over his rehab center but he has backed out. Assistant Township Administrator Lisa Brown said he canceled the purchase in time to receive his $100,000 in earnest money.

“After the inspections were done by the potential buyer they determined that the property was not going to work for their needs, it was going to require too much modification of the building and they were no longer interested,” Brown said.

Aziz sued the township in 2016 over a temporary moratorium banning drug rehab centers. Officials had said he wanted to refurbish the building for medical office space but no in-patient care.

The property went up for sale with an asking price of $2.5 million, but Aziz offered $100,000 more than the township would have gotten if they sold it for a new Kroger Marketplace. The sales agreement with Aziz included a 30-day inspection period and 60 days to finalize payment of the cash offer. The property was being sold as it stands.

ExploreWest Chester Activity Center, for sale since January, has a buyer

Trustee Mark Welch told the Journal-News after the inspection Aziz came back and wanted about $300,000 shaved off the price because of some required upgrades like sprinklers. He said he believes they could have kept the $100,000 in earnest money because he was changing the purchase agreement. But he said they would likely spend more in legal fees if Aziz took them to court again over the issue.

“There was some discussion as to whether he violated the contract, but emotionally you can say by golly you can keep the deposit,” Welch said. “But we just all agreed that logic prevailed and we’re just going to move on and we’ll take the high road.”

Aziz sued in federal court in September 2016, the case was dismissed as settled on Dec. 8 and a consent decree was authorized by the trustees on Jan. 11. The legal fees cost the township $103,157 and insurance covered $35,741.

Aziz wanted to convert the old West Chester nursing home on Ohio 42 into a drug rehab center, but the township issued a moratorium on those types of facilities while they studied the potential impacts on the community. Neighbors came out in force — the property sits across from ball fields and next to a daycare center — mainly to protest the project.

Trustee Ann Becker agreed Aziz likely would have sued if they decided to pocket the $100,000.

“When he came back and asked for a price reduction we said no, we sold it as-is and we’re trying to do what’s best for the taxpayers,” Becker said. “We could have kept the earnest money but we decided to unencumber the property and move onto the next buyer.”

Trustee Lee Wong said “it’s business, we’ll move on, it’s just as simple as that.” The asking price is still $2.5 million and Wong said despite the fact they were going to sell it to Aziz for less, he thinks they’ll get their price “there is no problem to sell that property.”

The other trustees agree they shouldn’t have any trouble getting their price, Becker said they have already had some interest in the property since the Aziz deal disintegrated.

“It’ll be a great property for the next person, it has only been on the market since February,” Welch said. “The real estate market may be cooling a little bit but that’s a great property, it’s almost four acres and quite honestly the appraisal when we got it a year or two ago, it was $1.8 (million) for just the land.”

Aziz could not be reached for comment.

The Activity Center has been at the center of a debate over whether or not the township should be in the business of providing community gathering space.

The Activity Center came into play after Community First Solutions stopped providing senior programming in 2019. Shortly thereafter the township agreed to sell the building to Kroger’s landlord Regency Centers for $1.8 million.

There were many moving parts and parties involved in trying to build a new 117,166-square-foot Marketplace. The deal was contingent on Regency Centers being able to acquire the Activity Center, the Providence Bible Fellowship church, a sliver from Chesterwood Village and easements and agreements with about 10 other property owners to complete the complicated deal.

The trustees gave Regency extensions of the timeline that was set in the purchase agreement to March 2020. The company had 90 days to acquire the church and Chesterwood properties and six months to complete due diligence. However three 90-day extensions could be requested at a cost of $50,000 each. The trustees agreed to amend the contract giving Regency another six months with $100,000 due September 2020. Regency cancelled the deal just before the payment would have been due.

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