|Orton Replies to "City, Developer in
Disagreement Over Alleged Violations at Historic Ford Plant"
December 22, 2009
Following an E-FORUM tradition and commitment, the following is a response from Eddie Orton to the story originally carried by “Richmond Confidential” about the Ford Building Visitor Center Lease.
Regarding Orton’s statements about veracity, I have the following comments:
· I did not write the Richmond Confidential story. If Orton has issues with it, he should contact the author,
· The National Park Service and the City of Richmond had requested and always expected Orton to comply with his agreement and both designate and reserve a space for the Visitor Center in the Craneway, but the National Park Service had no need to actually enter into a lease until funding for the Visitor Center internal improvements became available a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, Orton continued to have full use of the entire Craneway, including renting it for events at $10,000 a day and pocketing all the receipts. Just because the National Park Service did not insist on a lease four years ago for an empty space they were not ready to use did not obviate Orton’s legal obligation to reserve and ultimately provide the space. The National park Service negotiator did not “quit.” National Park Service leases, like all typical federal leases, are handled by the General Services Administration (GSA). In this case, the GSA, recognizing special circumstances, ultimately bowed out and allowed the National Park Service to handle its own lease, which is now the plan, with the City of Richmond assisting. If the Visitor Center location is moved to the Oil House, the building shell should be delivered in the same condition as was expected of the Craneway, which Orton has refused to do.
· Orton is correct that there is no specific requirement to deliver a “cold shell,” but the agreement does state that Orton will provide “shell space” that will be “located in the Building upon its rehabilitation and redevelopment,” rent free excluding only “normal NNN expenses and tenant improvements.” This clearly implies at least a cold shell. It would be a unimaginative stretch to conclude that the agreement anticipated Orton would rehabilitate and seismically upgrade 75% of the Craneway and deliver the remaining 25% to the National Park Service unpainted, with broken windows, a leaking roof, no floor and an unsafe structure, telling them, “Here, you are on your own.” This just doesn’t make any sense, and it undermines Orton’s credibility for everything else on this subject.
· While Orton and BCDC are continuing to debate and negotiate a resolution to the Bay Trail access issue, he is clearly in violation of his BCDC permit and is sustaining fines of up to $1,000 daily for these violations. It is not BCDC’s obligation to accommodate Orton; it is his responsibility to comply with his permit.
· Orton is correct that many parties have worked on the Visitor Center Lease for many months, but they are all frustrated that Orton has not moved forward to honor his legal commitments, and that delay has caused the National Park Service to lose millions of dollars in funds appropriated to construct the project.
· As Orton requests, I freely admit that I sit on the board of directors of Rosie the Riveter Trust, the non-profit partner of the National Park Service for Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. The Trust is principally a fund-raising organization to support the Park and has no contractual or legal interest in the Ford Building or the Visitor Center. It is in my role as a City Council member that I am doing everything I can to bring the Visitor Center to fruition. The Visitor Center will attract both visitors and media attention to Richmond and will generate business for local shops, hotels and restaurants – bringing tax revenue to Richmond and enhancing our image. It might be an overstatement to say I am blinded by my focus on Rosie, but I admit that I am deeply committed.
All Orton has to do to put this to bed is simply honor the legally binding commitment he made when he purchased the Ford Building from the City of Richmond, leased the Craneway (the City still owns the Craneway) and accepted a BCDC permit.
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Eddie Orton [mailto:email@example.com]
Your publication of the Randy Riddle
letter and the subsequent repeated coverage requires correction.