Thursday, March 23, 2000

$2.5 million bouquet to florist from city




BY ROBERT ANGLEN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati officials are putting up $2.5 million to make sure a local florist will stay in the city.

        The council voted Wednesday to guarantee the purchase of a former supermarket in Oakley if Jones the Florist can't get a permit to do business there.

        That move — to ensure Jones will not be strapped with the purchase of a building it can't use — came less than a day after the proposal was made by the city's economic development department.

        “They gave me less than 24 hours to make a decision about spending $2.5 million,” said Councilwoman Alicia Reece, who voted against the purchase. “I didn't have time to find out anything about this.”

        There was also no time to table the proposal, because Jones' option deadline to buy the building is less than a week away and the option expires before council meets again.

        But City Manager John Shirey said he doubts the city will have to buy the supermarket. In a memo to council dated March 21, he said it would happen only if Jones is denied a permit by the Oakley Environmental Quality District or if a permit is issued with “unreasonable” conditions.

        “If the city ultimately purchases this property through this option, we are confident that a cost-effective redevelopment project can be implemented at this location,” Mr. Shirey said.

        The city has also agreed to pay Jones up to $100,000 for “professional fees” associated with the relocation to Oakley.

        Calling it a back-stop for a “very good merchant,” Mr. Shirey said the city has been criticized for not doing enough to help downtown businesses such as Batsakes hat shop, which is being relocated, and Kathman shoe repair store, which went out of business.

        Now, he said, the city is being criticized for doing something innovative.

        Jones, headquartered in Walnut Hills, has agreed to pay $1 million for renovating the former IGA store to relocate its main offices, warehouse/distribution and production plant there.

        The $2.5 million will come out of a general fund reserve and surplus accounts. The general fund is used to pay basic city services, such as fire and police.

       



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