Temple Terrace: Town center developer defaulting on agreement
TEMPLE TERRACE - City leaders and a developer of a $150 million downtown district project are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye. While Vlass Temple Terrace officials suggest it may be time to pull out of the project, city leaders said this week they are still waiting for construction to begin on an arts center and an adjacent retail complex. On Tuesday, Temple Terrace City Council members directed their attorney to draft a default notice to Vlass, reminding the developer of its obligations to satisfy provisions of an agreement reached with the city in 2010 for the projects. Mayor Frank Chillura said the letter is not intended to sever the relationship with the developer but only to protect the city’s interest.“Our goal is to have a viable redevelopment project and have Vlass as the exclusive developer,” Chillura said. City Attorney Mark Connolly is writing the default letter based on several obligations Vlass agreed to in the master developer’s agreement, he said. Connolly said Vlass has yet to satisfy five provisions of the agreement related to construction of the proposed arts center and an adjacent retail complex. City officials say the developer: .
failed to submit proposed building plans and obtain building permits for the arts center
failed to submit draft condominium documents to the city within 60 days of the deadline to submit proposed building plans
failed to begin construction of the art center by July 1, 2012
failed to complete construction of the arts center within 12 months of the deadline to obtain the necessary building permits
refused to acknowledge any obligation to build the adjacent retail building or submit a site plan for it
If the developer fails to comply, it runs the risk of defaulting on the agreement it reached with the city three years ago, Connolly said.
The town center project at the southeast corner of Bullard Parkway and North 56th Street has been at a standstill since March 2012.
In April, the City Council organized a committee made up of Chillura, Connolly and newly hired City Manager Gerald Seeber to contact Atlanta developer Mike Vlass and members of his team to determine whether it is possible to get the town center project back on track.
Connolly said he reached out to David Smith, the attorney for Vlass, to check on possible dates for a meeting but had not heard back by Tuesday’s council meeting.
Smith has said his client doesn’t want to spend more money on the project. He said Vlass officials have questioned the city’s desire to work with his clients.
A representative from Vlass could not be reached for this story.
The town center project began with tremendous fanfare nearly three years ago. Residents and city leaders envisioned a downtown sprinkled with shops, restaurants, private residences, offices, and civic and cultural buildings.
City leaders formed a partnership with Vlass Temple Terrace in 2010 after Vlass, of Atlanta, and his partners took the lead to fulfill the city's 10-year dream to create a pedestrian-friendly, "new urbanism"-style town center.
The company broke ground on July 2, 2010. Since then, Temple Terrace leaders and residents have insisted the developer live up to its promise for private homes in the downtown area.
The Vlass team has proposed building a luxury apartment complex on the site. They consider the apartment complex an essential part of the downtown redevelopment plan, because no condominium market exists.
City staffers and members of the Vlass team have struggled to agree on zoning and land-development matters, and clash on topics as specific as first-floor ceiling heights and parking.
Connolly has said the city has shown a willingness to make concessions but apparently is not able to make as many as the developer wanted.
The city attorney said he is prepared to help the city and Vlass unwind the relationship without dealing with a legal fight.
The mayor and City Council members say they are hopeful the impasse can be resolved amicably and the project will get back on track.