Business

Small-business owner sues to prevent Marion Square Plaza redevelopment

Construction on development set to begin in spring

Jason Potts of RIC Flooring is suing MEDCO, Uptown Holdings, Genesis Equities and Eagle View Partners over the new devel
Jason Potts of RIC Flooring is suing MEDCO, Uptown Holdings, Genesis Equities and Eagle View Partners over the new development being pursued at Marion Square Plaza. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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MARION — A small-business owner in Uptown Marion is suing over what he says has been a change in plans for redevelopment of the Marion Square Plaza.

Jason Potts’s lawsuit names Marion Economic Development Corp., Uptown Holdings, Eagle View Partners and Genesis Equities in hopes of preventing the redevelopment of the strip mall by Cedar Falls’ Eagle View Partners into a mixed use, commercial-residential space.

Potts opened RIC Flooring in the strip mall, at 1101 Seventh Ave., in January 2020. At the time he was negotiating his lease in fall 2019, he said, he was promised a different redevelopment than the one now planned.

“I don’t want money,” Potts told The Gazette. “I want what was promised.”

What was promised by MEDCO and his landlord, Genesis Equities, he said, was a redevelopment that kept the majority of the original strip mall structure and improved the existing store spaces.

Instead, in August, the Marion City Council reviewed Eagle View’s plan to redevelop the strip-mall site and build two new properties — a commercial and residential space and a larger residential space.

The properties are referred to collectively as Broad and Main.

According to the lease between Potts and Genesis at the time of signing, seen by The Gazette, the work includes re-imagining the shopping center and “making alterations that improve the exterior appearance and structural function of the building and grounds, which shall include at a minimum updating the building and removing all existing awnings and replacing them with new facade improvements as determined by lessor and approved by lessee.”

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In its answer to the lawsuit, MEDCO and Genesis admitted that Genesis sent Potts an email, including some renderings, stating it was a “sneak peek of some possible exterior improvement options.”

Hannah Kustes, administrator of Genesis and the lessor of Potts’ lease, told The Gazette “a number of concepts” for redevelopment were being considered before selling the property to Uptown Holdings.

“Genesis Equities ... began to market very high-level rough concepts as examples for the possibilities that could be offered to potential tenants,” Kustes said in an email.

“All of the rough concepts at that time were conditional upon attracting additional tenants, yet to be formalized plans and subject to the landlord’s approval and sole discretion.”

Plans to move the Marion Public Library into part of a yet-to-be-built mixed-use building where the strip mall now stands were scrapped earlier this year.

Instead, the new library will be across the street from its current location, between Sixth and Fifth Avenues.

Potts said he is concerned with how the development would affect his company’s visibility and foot traffic, and said the current plaza has been neglected.

The plaza currently houses Potts’ business, China King and Weland Clinical Labs. Tomaso’s Pizza recently moved into a new building across the street, on Seventh Avenue.

Genesis denied it has failed to maintain the Marion Square Plaza property.

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In September, Eagle View sent Potts a letter saying Eagle View would pay him $75,000 to relocate his business.

Mark Kittrell, Eagle View Partners CEO and founder, then mailed Potts the proposed plan for the site and apologized for the buyout offer after Potts declined. .

In the proposed plan Kittrell sent, Potts’ business would remain in place, with new developments around it.

The letter noted Potts’ lease allows the landlord to temporarily or permanently close common areas and modify or improve the building if those actions do not limit access or visibility of Potts’ storefront.

Kittrell told The Gazette that his company, which he runs with his daughter, is trying to accommodate the current tenants.

“We are trying to be extremely sensitive to the tenants that are in the buildings,” Kittrell said.

“They’ve had a rough year, too, and the last thing they need is somebody else being inconsiderate of them and making things harder.”

Kittrell said he has made various offers to the current tenants, including space in the new facilities once built. With RIC Flooring specifically, Kittrell said he’s made plans to keep the business in place.

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MEDCO President Nick Glew said his organization remains “committed to supporting the high-quality development proposed” for the plaza.

“The community has been working together to address this deteriorated property for the past several years,” Glew said. “We believe that Eagle View has been very reasonable in offering multiple solutions to address the needs of existing business.”

Potts said the next step in the case will be a trial-setting conference in January.

Construction for the Eagle View project is slated to begin in the spring and be finished in spring 2022.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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