The Requiem Project, a nonprofit organization formed in 2008 to oversee programming and raise money to renovate the century-old theater, says that’s exactly where the University of Cincinnati has failed to fulfill the requirements of overseeing the property, and it is asking the Court of Common Pleas to remove UC from ownership of the building.
The Requiem Project yesterday filed an amendment to its lawsuit against UC and lessees of the property housing the Emery Theatre, arguing that UC and the organizations operating the building have systematically failed their charitable purpose by allowing the theater to fall into disrepair after non-use for so many years.
The suit asks the court to award the Requiem Project the lease under which another nonprofit, the Emery Center Corp. (ECC), is currently operating the theater via a series of subleases from UC. If UC is removed as owner, the building could be overseen by the city or another nonprofit organization and Requiem could sublease from it.
UC assumed control of the building in the 1970s but needed permission to renovate most of it into apartments because of the charitable trust’s requirement that the building continue to serve the community.
“The Court should remove UC as owner and trustee of the property, as UC has proved itself an unfit custodian,” the complaint states.
The complaint includes photos of various rundown areas inside the theater with captions such as, “Closed-off bathrooms. UC’s ‘saving’ The Emery” and “UC’s standard of fiduciary ‘care.’”
CityBeat covered the original lawsuit in August here.
The complaint accuses UC, ECC and Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) — the for-profit company that oversees the building’s apartments — of conspiring to breach a 2010 letter of intent that stated ECC would sublease the theater to Requiem on the same terms as ECC is currently operating the theater. Requiem says the binding letter of intent is still valid and gives its organizers the right to a long-term lease that will allow them to raise money while operating the theater.
The Requiem’s cofounders, Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, maintain in their lawsuit that the ECC and UC are purposely blocking the Requiem from moving forward with their original plan to incrementally update the 1,600-seat theater and allow programming to continue during the process.
After signing the letter of intent in 2010, the Requiem Project temporarily opened the Emery Theatre in 2011 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Mary Emery’s dedication of the theater and to reintroduce the public to the long-overlooked resource — the theater was modeled after Carnegie Hall in New York City and is considered “acoustically pure.” It was the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912-36 and has hosted the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although UC owns the building, it subleases the building to ECALP, which subleases the Emery Theatre to ECC. When contacted by CityBeat in August, UC spokesperson Greg Hand declined to comment, only stating that UC doesn’t have a relationship with the Requiem Project because its only relationship is with ECALP.
ECC informed Requiem in January that it would not renew its management agreement “for no cause,” according to the lawsuit, and then asked Requiem to vacate the building in August.
The complaint also seeks damages related to money Requiem has invested in the theater and losses caused by the August eviction. It is schedule for trial in February.