The Hitcents Park Plaza sign came down this week, and now the namesake business of the parking garage wrap is also leaving.
In a letter dated Tuesday from Hitcents CEO Clinton Mills to the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority, the technology firm said it will exercise its right to terminate its lease and will be out of the building by Sept. 25.
The decision to leave the building comes amid a slew of activity in recent months to remove Mills Family Realty as the troubled project's developer. Chris and Clinton Mills are the founders of Hitcents; their father, Ed Mills, is the head of Mills Family Realty and is listed as Hitcents' co-owner and CFO on the company's website. Contractors on the project filed liens against MFR in February, saying they were owed about $2 million for work on the project. The Authority and county and city governments have been working for several months to remove MFR as the developer.
The county agreed to issue $30 million in bonds to pay off debts and complete the project, this time with Hot Rods owner Jerry Katzoff as the developer. Katzoff has been working on reopening Mariah's restaurant and 6-4-3 sports bar in the development under a separate agreement, and has said he will rename it Stadium Park Plaza.
Hitcents has been paying $13,000 a month in rent, according to Development Authority attorney Scott Bachert. In the letter, Hitcents proposed to stay in the building until Oct. 31 at a reduced rate of $10,000 per month; the Authority turned down that proposal. Hitcents' original lease was to run to 2023, but the early termination option was added during the recent negotiations.
Messages to Ed and Clinton Mills went unanswered Friday.
Katzoff has already been working with Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce and county officials on new tenants, Bachert said at Friday's meeting of the Authority. The Authority approved an interlocal agreement at the meeting to formally approve Katzoff as the developer. The city and county previously approved the agreement, which now just lacks formal approval from the state Department of Local Government.
Hitcents leaving is "not entirely a surprise," Bachert said. "This is some of the nicest space in Bowling Green. We should have no trouble renting it."
Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon and Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson also said the news was not unexpected.
"It's not surprising and we wish them well," Buchanon said. "It may be the best thing for all parties concerned."
"We're looking forward to the next group coming in," Wilkerson said.
Hitcents was founded in 1999 as an Internet advertising firm by the Mills brothers when they were Bowling Green High School students and continued to grow and expand into app, technology and website development. It is now owned by Houchens Industries. MFR was chosen as the project's developer in 2012 and moved into the building in 2013 with Hitcents as the signature tenant.