Monday, July 30, 2007

Highland Square Neighborhood Association

Highland Square Neighborhood Association
140 North Highland Ave.
Akron, OH 44303

July 23, 2007

Akron City Council
166 South High Street, 3rd Floor
Akron, OH 44308

Dear Akron City Council Members, Mayor Plusquellic, Robert Bowmen, Leah Anglin, Tia Stathopoulos and Brett White,

On April 30, 2007, the Highland Square Neighborhood Association (HSNA) made a request to the Joint Economic Development and Job Creation Committee of Akron’s City Council to take action against Albrecht, Inc., who has broken several key obligations in the Joint Development Agreement and the Ground Lease Agreement at the Highland Square Triangle Site on the corner of West Market Street and North Portage Path. After 10 weeks of silence from the City despite repeated requests by both phone and email, the residents of Highland Square are still without a grocery.

As outlined in the HSNA’s previous request, Albrecht, Inc. has already failed to meet numerous obligations that it agreed to in its contract with the City. Included in these are: 1) failure to promptly start site preparation and construction, 2) failure to make legitimate efforts to lease the property to a grocer, 3) failure to provide rentable space by July of 2007 and, 4) failure to create fifteen full-time equivalent jobs related to the site, among others.

An illuminating example of Albrecht, Inc.’s deliberate undermining of efforts to bring a grocery to Highland Square occurred in the negotiations with Freshway Market. In 2005, Bob Foutty, Freshway Market’s owner, presented a pro forma to Albrecht, Inc. with a lease rate of $12 per square foot, an amount that was not addressed as inappropriate by Albrecht, Inc. As is the case with any lease negotiation, the price was a significant factor in Foutty’s decision to continue negotiations. For the nearly two years that followed, Albrecht, Inc. stalled drafting a lease agreement, claiming that the permitting process was responsible for the delay. Further inquiries by the HSNA determined that, to date, neither plans nor permit applications have been submitted to the Akron Building Department for a grocery store, exposing this deliberate stalling tactic.

It was not until early this year, at a meeting that included Bob Bowman and Leah Anglin from the City’s Economic Development Department, that Foutty was finally presented with the first and only written proposal from Albrecht, Inc. The rent figure had nearly doubled to a cost prohibitive $20 per square foot, including the $3 common grounds fee. Upon hearing the inflated price, Bowmen inquired of Foutty what would be required to close the deal, indicating that the City would be willing to assist him in opening a grocery in Highland Square. Foutty requested their assistance in locating small business programs that would absorb some of the costs. To date, no one from Economic Development has contacted Foutty.

According to Section 37 of the Akron Municipal Code, City Council and the Mayor have the authority to investigate the financial transactions of any office or department of the city government, and the official acts and conduct any city official. This Section is directly applicable to both the financial transaction between Albrecht, Inc. and the City and to those within the City who are intentionally acting in a manner complacent to the enforcement of the contract.

Furthermore, City Council and the Mayor are authorized by law to serve subpoenas for witnesses and documents relating to this issue and have the power to punish as for contempt those who fail to produce all related materials.

As taxpayers of the City of Akron, we hereby demand that City Council and the Mayor begin such an investigation into Albrecht, Inc.’s failure to honor the terms of the Joint Development Agreement and Ground Lease Agreement for the Triangle Site in Highland Square. If City Council and the Mayor fail to provide the public with their findings and a roadmap to resolution by August 13, 2007, the HSNA shall file suit, as per our rights in Section 733.59 of the Ohio Revised Code, against Albrecht, Inc. on behalf of the City of Akron, to remove Albrecht, Inc. from the site, as is provided for in the Ground Lease Agreement.

As the elected representatives of the citizens of Akron, you now stand at a crossroads. You can either continue to go to bat for a developer that has persistently shirked his responsibilities under the contract which you signed, or you can stand up for the residents that you were elected to represent.

Beyond the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars which have been spent to prop up Albrecht, Inc. in Highland Square, the real victims of this unnecessary situation are those who cannot jump into their cars to trek to Acme #1: the poor, the elderly and the children. As our campaign to educate the public about the contractual failures and sweetheart deals begins, we sincerely hope to be able to say that you are one of those that is standing firmly with the residents of Highland Square.


Lisa Bostwick, President
Highland Square Neighborhood Association

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