Members of the Grove City Council will return to the drawing board next week, as officials with Concept Companies, have terminated the contract concerning the sale of the Grove Civic Center.

On Monday, Aug. 21, Seth Lane, Chief Development Officer with Concept Companies, informed City Manager Bill Keefer in writing the company would no longer move forward with the potential purchase of the civic center, which sits at 1702 South Main, Grove.

Lane, who first contacted Keefer about the issue on Friday by phone, said the sporting goods retailer, who "had expressed a desire to open a store in Grove," has indicted opening a Grove storefront was "no longer a priority" for the business.

"We have actively marketed the site for the past five months and, while we have received interest in outparcel opportunities, we have not been successful in obtaining a user commitment for the building," Lane wrote in his message to Keefer. "Without a user commitment, we cannot move forward."

Also in the message, Lane made a formal request for the return of the $10,000 the company placed within an escrow fund to hold the property for a potential sale.

Because city officials had not successfully completed an election, to fund the purchase of a new facility, Keefer said the city is legally required to return the $10,000.

"If the election had been held, and they had put down the additional $90,000, then it would have been non refundable," Keefer said. 

The council will meet at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 29, for a special meeting. Initially it was designed to serve as a meeting for the approval of the 0.3 percent sales tax designed to fund the purchase of a new civic/event center.

Now, in light of the decision by Concept Development, Keefer anticipates council members will shelve the sales tax idea until a buyer may be obtained for the civic center.

Keefer said while sporting goods store officials withdrew their interest in the property, Lane and others from Concept Development told council members multiple retailers were interested in "outparcel" facilities located within the parking lot. 

Keefer said those retailers included a restaurant, smaller retail operations and a possible gas station. 

Keefer said moving forward with outparcel sales is not feasible until a retailer is found to serve as the anchor, or main tenet in the facility. 

"The council, at some point in time, indicated [the sale] was all or nothing," Keefer said. "As long as the facility is being used as a civic/event center, we need to have parking."

Keefer said he anticipates the council will discuss potential plans for the facility, now that the sale has fallen through. 

"We've put a lot of work into this to date, with a lot of information gathered," Keefer said. "Everything [concerning the sales tax] is based on 'x,y,z' happening. 

"Part of that includes the sale of the building for $2 million."

Without those funds, Keefer said, an additional $2 million would be added to the price tag of the $14.4 million proposed new civic center, because it would increase the amount of funds the city would need to raise through financing.

Behind the sale

In January, Grove council members voted unanimously to enter into a "Letter of Intent" agreement with the Florida-based company concerning the sale of the facility for an undisclosed retail space which would not violate the sales agreement with Wal-Mart, Inc.

In January, Keefer said the Letter of Intent agreement was nonbinding, and “sets forth the basis for proceedings” with the preparation of a formal sales contract for consideration and execution within 45 days of its signing.

At the time, Contract Development officials agreed to the possible sale of the civic center for $2 million.

Later, in April, city officials took another step in the process by approving an agreement with Boogaloo Properties, LLC., to secure the option to purchase a 21.3 acre property along north Highway 59, for a possible site for the civic center.

The land is currently owned by the Kansas-based LLC., which is managed by Grant A. Wistrom.

This came after the council approved in March after city and Concept Development officials moved forward with the potential sale of the current civic center.

At that time, the two parties entered into an agreement which called for Concept Development to put down a $10,000 deposit in an escrow account immediately, and an additional $90,000 in an escrow account upon the approval of a ballot question to fund a new civic center, with the intent that the funding would eventually be applied toward the facility sale.

The agreement in April with Wistrom's firm allowed city officials to ensure "due diligence" concerning the land and its eventual use, according to Keefer.

The agreement also allowed city officials to establish the eventual purchase price for the property at $27,000 per acre.

With the agreement, which was approved unanimously by the five council members, the city can now pay $5,000 in non-refundable monies, to secure the option to purchase the property through Dec. 1, 2017.

If city officials move forward with the purchase, the $5,000 will be applied to the eventual purchase price. During the same meeting, those funds were allocated by the council for contract with Wistrom from the city's contingency fund.

Keefer said the land is located between the former Catfish John property and Tractor Supply. It contains both street access from Highway 59, and back access to Wolf Creek Park.