Dear Decaturish – PRI proud of Scottish RiteThe old Scottish Rite Hospital property. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt
Editor’s note: Progressive Redevelopment and Progressive Decatur are the owners of the historic Scottish Rite property in Oakhurst. Currently, Progressive is a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Community Center of South Decatur, a local nonprofit that maintains the east wing of the property, known as The Solarium. PRI sent this letter to the editor on April 11. Decaturish.com welcomes letter to the editor submissions. If you’d like to submit one, contact [email protected]
Much has been written over the past weeks and months about the history and status of Historic Scottish Rite in Oakhurst, and our thanks for your efforts to inform the neighborhood. We’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some of the facts for your readers.
- Progressive Redevelopment Inc. (PRI) and its partner, the Housing Resource Center, Inc. own the Historic Scottish Rite site through an entity called Progressive Decatur, LLC. We were awarded the opportunity to redevelop the Historic Scottish Rite site by the City of Decatur in 1998 after an exhaustive Request for Proposals process, and after the property had effectively sat vacant for nearly 20 years. After several years of working out the details with the City, the City transferred the property to Progressive Decatur in 2000.
- PRI was responsible for securing $4,000,000 in financing for the rehabilitation of the Historic Scottish Rite campus. We used multiple layers of financing to reach this goal. Neither the City of Decatur nor the Community Center of South Decatur assumed any responsibility or liability in this financing structure. The rehab of the property took about 18 months, with a grand opening ceremony in October, 2002.
- As part of PRI’s original proposal, PRI offered to lease the “east wing” of the property (the Solarium) to the Community Center of South Decatur (CCSD) for $10 per year for 19 years, until 2021, and signed that lease in 2002. Progressive Decatur does not receive any of the revenues generated by the CCSD’s use of the facility.
- Progressive Decatur and CCSD signed a “Letter of Intent for Option Agreement” at the same time as the lease in 2002. That Letter of Intent contemplated a subsequent agreement under which CCSD would have an option to purchase its wing, but no other portion of the property, for $10. The Letter of Intent expressly states that such an option, once finalized, could not be exercised as long as there is debt on the property. There is a first mortgage loan on the property and we are legally bound by its terms.
- There was a Development Agreement between PRI and the City of Decatur executed in 2000. The City released the Development Agreement from the property in 2001, evidencing PRI’s satisfaction of its requirements.
- The building is fully leased to a great mix of tenants, many of whom also live here in the Decatur area. We encourage all your readers to visit Dr. Tom Brillante at Decatur Eye Care, who has been a tenant here for over 10 years, and Dr. Tim Watts, M.D., who is a family physician. If you have marketing needs, Kathleen Turaski of Resonance, Inc. has also been here for over 10 years. Jim Cameron and Origins Real Estate offer highly personalized residential and commercial real estate services, and National Signal Technology is a specialty engineering company. Deborah McGarry’s Massage Therapy is also located in this historic building. We also have non-profit tenants, Tapestry Development Group (affordable housing developers) and CaringWorks, Inc. (a supportive services agency.)
- Palate Café, Inc./McGowan’s vacated the west wing of the property after failure to agree on the terms of an extension of its lease. The landlord had agreed to several modifications of the lease over the years in an attempt to help them succeed, but the restaurant had been under financial stress for several years – since long before the CCSD suit or our listing the property for sale. The restaurant was continually unable to meet even the reduced rent obligations and finally vacated the building without notice to us.
- We have many leads for a new restaurant in that space, and will have an announcement as soon as possible.
- The CCSD chose to sue Progressive Decatur in March, 2013, purportedly over the issue of mistaken Georgia Power meters and bills. We strongly believe the suit is baseless and continue to work toward its resolution.
- The historic buildings continue to be marketed for sale by Bill Adams and Talani Casariego of Adams Realtors.
- The mortgage on the building is current and always has been, and the property is not in foreclosure. The loss of the restaurant admittedly poses challenges to the property. We are determined, though, to preserve this community asset and are making every effort to do what we reasonably can to accomplish that goal.
We are proud of the role we have played in bringing this historic landmark in the heart of the Oakhurst neighborhood back to its original status at the center of this community. The wonderful tenants at Historic Scottish Rite have helped revitalize this community; they are here every day, and provide services that did not exist in Oakhurst 15 years ago. We encourage all your readers to support these businesses.
PRI has done everything we committed to do in 1998, and we have won local and national awards for this rehabilitation. We have been part of this community since 1998, and are glad to be able to show our community support through such events as our past support of the Oakhurst Arts Festival and by providing the space on our front lawn and front steps for Jazz Nights since their inception.
Lorri Mills and Bruce Gunter
For Progressive Decatur/Progressive Redevelopment, Inc.