(Posted April 28, 2014)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
It’s been a long time coming, but the city of London has finally sold the Armory. The property sits at 15 E. Second St. across from the city administrative offices.
On April 17, city council approved an offer of $66,000 submitted by Henry and Mandy Comer. The Comers plan to move their business, Mandy’s Day Care of London, into the Armory. They have operated the business out of their home on South Oak Street for 10 years.
The Comers were one of two parties to submit offers to purchase the Armory. The other was London resident Joe Mullins, a member of Crossroads Community Church, which rented the Armory for an after-school program until the lease ran out late last year.
Henry Comer said he and his wife are willing to work with Mullins and the church to provide space at the Armory for the church’s youth basketball program. The Comers also plan to take over the rental agreement the city has with ReadyFM 105.1, a local radio station that operates out of a small space in the Armory.
“We’re here for the whole community,” Comer said.
The city is financing the purchase through a land installment contract with a 4 percent interest rate. The Comers will pay off the loan over the next 10 years. The money will go into a city fund set aside for improvements to the London Community Center located on Walnut Street.
Madison County Future Inc., a community improvement corporation (CIC) affiliated with the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, served as the city’s selling agent for the Armory property. For their services, the CIC will receive 2 percent of the sale price.
The Armory sale comes with a string attached that could cost the city $17,923.
In 2007, the city improved the Armory’s roof using a $40,000 grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. (The grant is now administered by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission).
The grant required that the Armory be used for youth recreation purposes for 15 years from the time the roof work was finished. If that ceased to be the case within the 15-year window, the city would owe a pro-rated amount of the grant back to the commission.
City officials assumed they could sell the facility and not owe any grant payback as long as the buyer offered youth-related opportunities. That turned out to be incorrect. To avoid any grant payback, the city had to have a “suitable replacement” for the Armory should they sell it. The commission rejected the London Community Center as a replacement because it does not meet additional grant criteria pertaining to the historical value of the building.
In another attempt to prevent the payback, Zahid Siddiqi, the city’s law director, said he plans to argue that the city will still be the legally titled owner of the Armory until the Comers pay off the land contract. Whether or not the commission will accept that argument remains to be seen, Siddiqi said.
If the city must pay back the grant, they will owe the commission $17,923. A little over half of the 15-year period has passed, so the amount owed is a little less than half the original $40,000 grant.