Trustee Mark Welch said if or when it comes to it, the trustees will need to vote unanimously on the actual sale of the building. He said he is willing to see if they can capture the $2.5 million price or better “as far as I’m concerned it can’t hurt anything to give it a shot.”
But he still isn’t necessarily sold on getting rid of it.
“I’m still of the opinion the most conservative thing to do would be to repair it, use it as a true community center and find a way to make it revenue neutral,” Welch said.
The trustees had a $1.8-million purchase agreement with Regency Centers so a giant Kroger Marketplace could be built, but the deal fell through in the summer of 2020. The trustees resumed meetings with Regency and Kroger last fall, but Welch said as far as he was concerned negotiations were over because they still wanted the township to pay for some of the necessary infrastructure improvements that could cost as much as $2 to $4 million.
“They basically want to come back for a redo with pretty much the same conditions and I’m going to say no, I’m not doing it, I’ll vote against it every time,” Welch said. “You know you guys had no skin in the game, you dragged this along and then because you thought it was going to impact your profitability you let the deal die.”
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 an extension 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.
Neither Kroger or Regency have responded to requests for comment.
Trustee Ann Becker said if Regency and Kroger still want it they’ll have to deal with North Ridge.
“They’d have to work with our broker, we’re out of the deal business,” Becker said. “Kroger left us a little sour.”
She hopes they can find right fit for the property.
“I look forward to finding a new owner for that property, that’s a great part of town and finding the right owner and the right development for that piece of land will add to the east side of the township immensely,” she said.
The Activity Center came into play after Community First Solutions stopped providing senior programming in 2019. Seniors have been begging the trustees to find them a new gathering space. The township has considered three options to provide the seniors and others meeting space: renovating the Activity Center, which had a rough estimate of $3.4 million, installing heat and air conditioning in the Muhlhauser Barn so the seniors could use the lower level and an estimated $6 million MidPointe Library expansion.
Nancy and Jack Williams spearheaded the seniors group that had been attending trustee meetings religiously and she told the Journal-News late last year they have “given up” on the trustees giving them a place to meet.
“We’ve pretty much given up on that,” she said about the Activity Center. “We absolutely love the Boys and Girls Club ... we love the place, it’s awesome.”
She said they continue meeting at the Boys & Girls Club and beginning this month Meals on Wheels is delivering them lunch at the library on Fridays. She said they have found a meeting spot for the summer when they can’t use the Boys & Girls Club, but she can’t divulge the location yet.
“We’re secure for the summer, we have a place to go,” she said.