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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Details on Fort Thomas' Deal To Acquire the VA Homes

The General's quarters home in Alexander Circle will be one of the most coveted homes if the homes are taken under development by the city's qualified partner. FTM file. 
On Monday when the Fort Thomas city council dismissed to executive session to discuss the fate of the historic VA Homes in Tower Park, Mayor Eric Haas was excited. He had known since earlier this month that a deal for the city to acquire the historic homes was moving forward.

RELATED: (BREAKING) Fort Thomas Clears Hurdle To Acquire VA Homes 

"I knew we had gotten a better deal than what we originally asked for," he said. "It's a long time coming and a best case scenario for the city and the homes. Our new agreement makes the process simpler now because (after the abatement plan is approved by the VA), the negotiations will just be between the city and developer."

The big shift that allowed for the transfer of the homes from the VA to the city, according to city officials, came when the VA allowed the agreement to be changed so that the city could take ownership of the properties after the lead and asbestos remediation would be completed, and not before.

That small change in language represented the largest obstacle and delay in the project.

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"We had been in negotiations throughout this year with VA representatives and were looking at a possible escrow to allow the environmental issues to be addressed after transfer of the property," said City Administrative Officer, Ron Dill. "This has long been the threshold issue that put the project at risk with both the City and our potential developer. Officials with the VA were able to gain relief from this requirement and this resulted in a revised Memorandum of Understanding MOA) being drafted." 

So while the news coming out of the city building on Monday was outstanding, it's not yet a done deal.

An abatement plan to remove the lead and asbestos should be the final hurdle to clear for the city to finally call the homes theirs, albeit for a very short time before they transfer them to the qualified developer of the project.

After failing to get developers to bid on a minimum price twice, the city changed tactics of first targeting a qualified developer to work through the process. In May of 2015, the city selected Bloomfield/Schon as the developer to work on the homes.

Bloomfield/Schon will be responsible for doing the abatement after the VA approves that plan, which has no timeline on negotiations. After the VA approves the abatement plan, there is a 90-day window to finally transfer the ten homes to the city.

RELATED: Details of the VA Developer Agreement Revealed 

But Haas admits that negotiations with the VA over the years has not always been the most smooth process.

In fact, he said that about a year ago he thought the process was nearing a close when the point-person at the Veterans Administration with whom the city had been working closely was reassigned.

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"One of the biggest holdups of the project over the last year was the change in command at the VA. We almost had to start over from scratch with them," he said.

It was then when he and Dill, exasperated with the process, penned an email to the VA.

"Previously the city administrators and our engineers had corresponded with the VA, but it was the first time an email had come directly from me. Ron and I basically had the opportunity to lay out how the city has been trying to get these homes back to their glory over the last 13 years," said Haas.

"We were professional, but let them know how the buildings were in such deplorable shape and the fact that they had to block off the road because of the concern that pieces of the homes could fall and hit people, I would think that they would want to get this matter resolved as soon as possible. We also let them know about the pressure that the city had been feeling from the citizens to get these homes rehabbed. 

I let them know that no one else would be able to get by with having buildings in this condition."

Haas said a timeline hasn't been established for the next step, but that he didn't believe anything would happen before the first of 2017.

RELATED: Pictures of the VA Homes, Developers Walk Through Properties 

There is no word yet on projected price points or market studies for the homes. Developers were walking through the VA homes yesterday, just one day after the announcement of the the new memorandum of understanding was agreed upon.

The city will buy the homes behind the city’s Tower Park for $510,000. The costs of removing lead and asbestos up to $510,000 will be refunded to the city as part of the deal.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see Fort Thomas taking steps to maximize the value of the underutilized assets.

    Has the city contacted any firms with experience with historic properties?

    Has anyone looked into the process that happened with Ft. Sheridan in Illinois? Ft. Sheridan was redeveloped - 125 acres - by LR Development Company in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings and received Federal Tax Incentives for a portion of the project.

    This happened in 2001. Its been a successful project with enough time elapsed to analyze what went wrong and what went right.

    Plus, my dad grew up in the Doctor's Circle, and I'd like to see this part of the Fort saved.