College Station's attempt to ensure Café Eccell's future during the First Street Property sale has led to a standoff between the tenant and the property's new owner, but the city will be handling its tenant differently in its next attempt to exit the landlord business.
After the sale closed earlier this week on the First Street Property, the only other place the city of College Station collects rent is from tenants of the Chimney Hill Shopping Center, located on the corner of University Drive and Tarrow Street. Years ago, the city acquired it in the hopes of building a convention center, but College Station City Council agreed to sell the property to PM Realty Group in December.
The private tenants of the Chimney Hill property include popular steakhouse The Republic, DaVita Dialysis, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Brazos Valley Food Bank and Western Beverages. PM Realty Group indicated to the council that it plans on incorporating The Republic into its future mixed-use development -- much like Asset Plus, the First Street Property developers, indicated it wanted to keep Café Eccell -- but the economic development agreement and the lease makes The Republic's future more clear.
The Chimney Hill economic development agreement, obtained by The Eagle, uses much of the same language as the First Street Property one, saying the developer should continue operations with The Republic "in good faith" and PM Realty Group should use "commercially reasonable efforts" to allow the restaurant to continue to operate during construction.
The biggest differences with the First Street Property economic development agreement is the extra clarification and The Republic's rights in its lease.
The agreement says that PM Realty Group must provide for the current tenants pursuant to their leases, and, in good faith, continue operations with The Republic under a new or amended lease agreement. It further clarifies, though, that the agreement doesn't warrant or guarantee any new or amended lease. If they do enter into a new lease, though, the agreement states that there is no guarantee the restaurant can operate continuously during construction, as long as the developer is using commercially reasonable efforts.
"In the economic development agreement with Chimney Hill, staff took a little bit more effort to make sure things are explicitly stated for both the buyer and seller to fully understand the expectations and to make everything more clear," said Randall Heye, assistant to the city manager in College Station.
The First Street Property's economic development agreement states that Asset Plus should allow Café Eccell to continue operations under a new lease, but does not guarantee a new lease as long as the developer agrees to use good faith and commercially reasonable efforts to negotiate.
The sale of the property does not supersede the leases, only changes its hands. The Republic's lease extends through March 2017, and officials with PM Realty Group said at the December council meeting that it plans to construct the new development in phases, moving The Republic's location across the shopping center. The Republic can come to new terms on a new lease with PM Realty Group or continue with the current lease.
Wade Barkman, owner of The Republic, declined to comment. The sale to the Houston-based developers isn't final yet, as PM Realty Group has a 150-day inspection period before the purchase and sale agreements and the economic development agreement become final.
City officials said they have been in communication with the tenants during the property's sale. DaVita Dialysis' lease at the shopping center extends through February 2015. Western Beverages and the Brazos Valley Food Bank are both on month-to-month leases, and they can give the city 30 days notice or the city can give those parties 30 days notice to vacate under the current leases.
The Convention and Visitor's Bureau's lease is through December 2015, but it allows for the city to terminate that date for economic development with 180 days advance written notice.