Thursday, May 23, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
September 25, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- With the dust having finally settled on out-of-state court proceedings involving Independence Station, town leaders are moving forward with their own lawsuit against developers of the long-dormant project.
Granada Trust, which owns the unfinished three-story structure at the intersection of Monmouth and Second streets, actually reached a settlement in a $14.5 million lawsuit filed in California by contractor Johnson Controls Inc. in 2011 over the plaintiff's claim of defaulted loans.
Exact terms were undisclosed as part of a privacy provision, but entail a number of property transfers and "payments of certain sums."
The process was bogged down for months because of multiple trusts owning properties scattered throughout different states, said Independence City Manager David Clyne.
Transactions with title companies concluded, however, in early September and the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles formally dismissed the case last week.
The Granada Trust received a deed of reconveyence for the Independence property on Sept. 12, according to Polk County records.
"We are very excited and relieved that the lawsuit was settled," said Steven Ribeiro, a member of the trust and project developer in an email on Friday.
Meanwhile, Independence's 2010 case against Ribeiro is next on the docket.
The city will file an amendment in Polk County Circuit Court this week to its original 2010 lawsuit and remove Johnson Controls as a defendant, Clyne said.
Work halted on Independence Station, which was touted to become "the world's greenest building," in fall 2009. Payments of system development charges (SDC) to the city ended the following year, officials said.
Independence claims Ribeiro owes nearly $525,000 in SDCs, which have grown with interest, Clyne said.
The city wants its funding, as well as court costs and attorney fees, he said. If the money doesn't exist, Independence would seek to foreclose on the building.
Clyne said the SDCs are important, but even more crucial is the lost tax base and barrier to local development caused by the project, which broke ground in 2005.
"People have asked why it failed and I'm sure that puts doubt in developers' minds if they want to invest in projects here," he said.
In an email, Ribeiro said he has been meeting with potential partners to get the building restarted and that "we are making great progress already."
"Independence Station is my life's work and we will be fully focused on completing and operating the project for licensed replication nationwide," he also said.
If the trust repays its SDCs, the city's lien on the building would disappear. Technically, when exactly construction resumes is up to the developers -- or at least it seems that way.
"We won't sit idly by and watch it stand there as it has," Clyne said. "I think we have the the ability through codes to get it completed or abated as a nuisance.
"It's a monument to failure as it stands now," Clyne continued. "We need to to do something to change that dynamic."