The next 24 to 48 hours could be critical in negotiations for taking over the development of the commercial wrap of the downtown parking garage.
Those negotiations continue after nearly $2.4 million in liens were filed against Mills Family Realty, the current subdeveloper of the project and owners of two now-shuttered restaurants. Contractors who claim they weren’t paid for work on the wrap filed the liens.
Manhattan Capital Sports Acquisition, the parent company of the Bowling Green Hot Rods, bought the Louisville Bats in September and has shown interest for months in taking over the wrap.
“Mr. (Jerry) Katzoff is coming in to town ... and hopefully we will get something worked out,” Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said. Katzoff is a partner in the company.
All parties involved, including the Millses, the city and the Katzoff organization, would have to sign off on any agreement, Buchanon said.
So how quickly could the situation be resolved?
“We are hoping that could happen in a couple of days,” Buchanon said.
An interim operating agreement would likely be set up for the wrap and restaurants, which would have to include details of how the liens would be released, he said.
Buchanon said it should be the Millses’ responsibility to see that the liens are released, “but obviously that is not the way they see it. ... The agreement can’t be transferred without the liens being satisfied, hence the negotiations. ... It is a complicated deal.”
Some of those negotiations appear to have occurred in closed-door sessions by the Bowling Green City Commission, which Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he legally can’t discuss.
Buchanon said even if everyone signed off on an agreement, it would likely take a month to execute.
Clinton Mills of Mills Family Realty, in an email to the Daily News, said in regard to the liens: “We are working diligently on a solution. There are a lot of moving pieces and hope to have this resolved in the near future.”
Even as bills were unpaid for work on the development of the wrap around the parking garage, work continued to bring new tenants into the unoccupied space.
Mills Family Realty, as the subdeveloper, requested credit from Franklin Bank and Trust, the amount of which is unclear, to complete the work. Bond-anticipation notes, first $20 million and then another $5 million, were said to be more than enough to finish bringing tenants to the building, including 38,000 square feet of restaurant space and 68,000 square feet of office space.
Franklin Bank President Alex Downing declined to disclose how much credit was extended to Mills Family Realty and said his bank’s agreement should not be impacted by the nearly $2.4 million in liens that were filed Friday.
Wilkerson also is adamant that the city will owe no money to settle the liens. The city, however, is a backstop for any bond payments that can’t be paid with lease money or revenue from the Tax Increment Financing district. Warren County issued the bonds and technically owns both the parking garage and wrap.
The county has no “financial obligation” to repay the bonds, Buchanon said.
So how did the county come to issue the bonds?
“They just asked us to do it,” Buchanon said, noting he didn’t recall the exact scenario.
A subordination agreement with Franklin Bank and Trust filed in the Warren County Clerk’s Office said Mills Family Realty was requesting credit to finish out space for BKD, one of the tenants in the wrap. Collateral for that funding is the lease payments being paid by BKD.
The liens filed by master developer Alliance Corp. of Glasgow and D&M Electric of Bowling Green also want to lay claim to any rent money for lease agreements with Mills Family Realty “along with any and all other rights Mills (Family) Realty may possess.”
BKD, an accounting firm, only recently had a grand opening of its space on the building’s second floor.
Staff is still operating in BKD’s office, despite the words of a lone security guard Monday to a reporter that no one was allowed in the building because of “all the equipment” inside. Teams of Servpro employees and their equipment were posted throughout the building, getting rid of moisture from severe flooding when heavy rain compounded with melting snow and ice last week.
The door to offices for Hitcents, founded by Mills Family Realty principles – twin brothers Clinton and Chris Mills and their father, Ed – was papered over and two large air handling hoses were coming out of the other door Monday. It was the same for other spaces in the building, including the Warren County Attorney’s Child Support Office, which has temporarily relocated to the Warren County Courthouse. Today, it appeared Servpro was packing up most of its equipment, the large air handler hoses no longer snaking out of the parking garage.
While flooding impacted the remaining two restaurants on the first floor – Mariah’s and 6-4-3 – they quickly reopened after the flood a week ago, only to see their doors close Monday morning.
It was business as usual Friday when Bowling Green resident Kyda West was at the restaurant buying a $100 gift card.
West showed up at Mariah’s before lunch Monday to see if anyone was there.
“I want my money back,” West said, fuming.
A woman jumped out of a vehicle on the curb of Seventh Street and ran up to the building to read the “closed until further notice” sign on Mariah’s door.
“We saw it on Twitter and just wanted to see for ourselves,” one woman said as she was driving off.
There was no evidence anyone was inside either restaurant. All lights, except for illuminated exit signs, were off.
Employees were sent messages telling them not to report to work, pending negotiations, and hinted the restaurants might reopen later Monday. That didn’t happen.
Clinton Mills sent a statement Monday: “As of Monday morning, 643 Sports Bar and Mariah’s will be closed until further notice. We are painfully aware of the effects this will have on the employees and their families and our hearts go out to them. We hope Mariah’s will be brought back as we recognize that it is a staple of the community and the downtown area. At this time, we have no further comment.”
Buchanon said it is critical to get the restaurants reopened.
“The level of success or failure of a project that size in the heart of downtown makes a difference to entire downtown. ... Something that significant has an impact on economic development efforts, tourism and future growth of the TIF district.”
Downtown business owners will continue as usual.
“We’ve been seeing Facebook posts about ‘what is left in downtown BG now?’ ” Tea Bayou co-owner Theresa Shea said.
“The same great restaurants and shops are still here, and we hope that everyone continues to come down and support locally owned businesses and shops that work so hard to create a growing and vital downtown.”