The Downtown Development Authority voted unanimously Tuesday night to grant 45 days exclusivity on a portion of the building at 941 Main Street that DDA purchased in March to restaurant owner and DDA board member Jorge Flores for feasibility studies.
The 45 days is “an exclusive period (for Flores) to do his due diligence and decide if he wants to lease it or purchase it,” said DDA board member and city Councilman Marty Jones. He said Flores made the request because he did not want to spend money on architectural studies only to have the space go to someone else while the study was conducted.
Flores, who owns Las Flores restaurant a few buildings down on Main Street, made the request during an executive session on real estate matters.
Flores said he had decided the day before but had not had time to put it on the agenda. "It was simply the presentation of the idea. It was simply, 'Is there a possibility of doing this?' I took no part in the discussion," said Flores. "My only request was 'I’m looking at the building. I have some interest. If I wanted to do some feasibly studies, would the DDA give me a time frame to do that?'”
After the request, Flores was excused from the executive session, said Jones. “We didn’t discuss it with him in the room,” said Jones.
The DDA board reconvened in open session to vote, which Flores did not participate in.
Jones said most of the DDA board members knew Flores had an interest in the building on some level. But he pointed out many people might express interest. Such a request “takes it to another level.” He said at least two other businesses have expressed interest in portions of the building.
The building, a total of about 9,000 square feet, previously housed an auto parts or auto repair business several years ago and would take a considerable amount to fix up, said Jones. The building currently has no heating, air, or bathrooms.
“That building’s just a shell,” said Jones. The lease for the building as-is was estimated to be about $1800. “The chances of anyone taking it at $1800 is almost zero,” he said, during the meeting. Any tenant or owner would have to do work on the building, which would go back into the lease.
Previous DDA member Ashley Frey also owned a business, Southern Komfort, that rented space in a DDA-owned building. Frey reportedly recused herself from votes regarding the building and tenant agreements.
Frey recently moved to Newton County and her seat was filled with new member Brandon Mitchell, 29, whose first meeting was on Tuesday.