The Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority voted this morning to terminate its operating and subdeveloper agreements with Mills Family Realty and join Warren County in any legal action initiated by the county, the latest development involving the troubled downtown Hitcents Park Plaza commercial wrap project.

In a special meeting this morning, the authority also voted to act as co-counsel with Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken and waive any conflict of interest between the authority and the county in litigation.

Financial problems have plagued the partial commercial wrap of the downtown parking garage, where all five restaurants operating there have closed less than a year after opening and liens of more than $2 million have been filed on the property for money allegedly owed to construction contractors.

The county and the economic development authority claim in a lawsuit that Mills Family Realty, which managed the wrap, misused $3.9 million in bond funds issued for Hitcents Park Plaza.

Mills Family Realty claims it was permitted to use bond money to pay the restaurants' operating expenses.

A conceptual agreement in which the city would provide a general obligation lease commitment for up to $30 million in new county-issued bonds for the project has not taken shape because of ongoing disagreements among the county, the economic development authority and Mills Family Realty over how to resolve the financial issues surrounding the project.

"To date, negotiations ... have not borne the fruit we had hoped," said Scott Bachert, attorney for the economic development authority.

No agreement is in place with any other entity to manage the property and there is not enough money in the project fund to pay for unfinished construction. 

— For more details, see Saturday's Daily News.


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