By Rick Palsgrove
Some Groveport City Council members expressed concerns over the status of the commercial tenant lease negotiations for the large commercial buildings being built on downtown Groveport’s Main Street.
The city owned buildings, which are part of the $7.6 million 1847 Main Project, are the 14,145 square foot Rarey’s Port (674 Main St.) building and the 12,184 square foot Wert’s Grove (480 Main St.) building. Construction is expected to be completed on the buildings in the spring of 2022.
Speaking at council’s Jan. 24 meeting, Eric Ross, senior investment advisor for 3CRE who is representing the city in the lease negotiations with prospective business tenants, said, “We are working to get the targeted tenants to the finish line.”
Currently, three restaurants are planned to occupy the lower levels of the Wert’s Grove and Rarey’s Port buildings. They include: Delaney’s Diner – a breakfast, lunch, brunch restaurant that will occupy 4,000 square feet of space with a patio on the west end of the Rarey’s Port building; Preston’s: A Burger Joint and Honey’s Fried Chicken, which would occupy a little under 3,000 square feet on the west end of the Wert’s Grove building; and Mmelo Confectionary & Café – a high-end chocolates and confections place that also offers breads and pastries, a full lunch and dinner menu, and made to order specialties, coffee and espresso – would occupy around 2,300 square feet, plus patio, on the east end of the Wert’s Grove building.
According to Groveport City Administrator B.J. King, Delaney’s has signed its lease with the city. He said the city hopes to have signed leases from the other two businesses in the next couple of weeks. He said the city does have letters of intent from both of these businesses.
With the buildings getting closer and closer to completion, Councilman Scott Lockett said he is concerned that all the leases are not yet signed.
“I don’t want to see us (the city) outfit a building for a restaurant and then what if they don’t come in?” said Lockett, who is concerned about the potential cost of refitting the space for a different potential business. “I’m frustrated that all the leases are not locked up yet.”
Ross said he understood Lockett’s sense of urgency and said if a business decides not to come in that the building is “still very attractive and it will be filled.”
Councilman Shawn Cleary questioned if the letters of intent had any meaning.
“Letters of intent are not legally binding,” said Ross. “Typically they are what you need to get started. I am still very confident we will get the leases signed.”
Councilman Jack Rupp asked what the plans are to fill the remaining second floor spaces in the buildings and Ross replied the second floors will most likely be for retail or special business market use.
“There is interest in this project,” said Ross.
As of the Messenger’s press time of Feb. 2, the remaining leases had not been signed.
“Both Preston’s and Mmelo experienced some reluctance from a couple of their investors that they’re currently working around,” said Groveport Development Director Jeff Green.
When asked what the city’s next step would be to fill the spaces in the building if these businesses do not sign the leases, Green said, “We will continue to market the spaces to restaurants in the central Ohio market. We have already been approached by one prospective tenant.”
Here are city council members’ thoughts (in alphabetical order) regarding the lease negotiations:
•Shawn Cleary: “I originally was in favor of only constructing one building as part of this project, however, I do see the potential of having both buildings. I’m concerned what our next steps would be if we don’t get the signed leases, especially in the economic climate we are in these days.
•Ed Dildine: “I have the confidence in our City administration to get leases signed if not with our original prospects but with others who are interested. This is uncharted territory for all of us in these uncertain times. This is a project I strongly believe in for the growth of our city.”
•Jean Ann Hilbert: “My hope is to have both businesses locate in Groveport.”
•Becky Hutson: “I’m not too concerned, however, time is ticking and they are moving at a great pace. With the economic and shortage situation I understand their hesitation to sign. I’m looking forward to honey chicken and Preston’s. I’m sticking with build it and they will come. We are a great city and these are awesome opportunities.”
•Scott Lockett: “We are cautiously optimistic that Preston’s and Mmelo will sign leases for spaces at Wert’s Grove. If they aren’t signed soon we will have no choice but to look for other possible tenants. I remain optimistic we will be able to lease out Wert’s Grove and provide our residents with the types of businesses they have requested.”
•Jack Rupp: “I understand our prospects want to proceed with caution and measure their risk. We must recognize the risk to city, this is a considerable investment for Groveport. If it does not pay off, it could easily affect our ability to provide city services at their current levels. It’s imperative that we secure leases.”