by Danny Cross
Posted In: News
at 01:22 PM | Permalink
Nonprofit says UC and lessees have failed their charitable purpose
When Mary Emery donated the money to build the Ohio
Mechanics’ Institute in 1908, she stipulated that the building would contain an
assembly hall available to the public. Her charitable trust has been tasked
with ensuring that The Emery Theatre, located in the basement of the building
at the corner of Walnut Street and Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine, is used
for public performances ever since.
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. A 1999 court ruling allowed the development but required all profits to be used to renovate the Emery Theatre. Fourteen years later, the apartment operators say there are
multiple mortgages on the property and no profits.
“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.’”
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.
by German Lopez
Judge says case is too early to call either way but refuses to grant restraining order
Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch today ruled against
granting a temporary restraining order that would prevent the trio that
owns and leases the Emery Theatre from evicting the nonprofit seeking to
renovate the building.
The ruling comes as a minor victory to the University of
Cincinnati, Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the
Emery Center Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery
Theatre, and a loss to the Requiem Project, the nonprofit formed in 2008
to restore the theater to its former glory.
Still, Stitch cautioned that both sides potentially have a
case and the rejection shouldn’t be seen as indicative of who will
ultimately win the legal battle.
Given the ruling, both sides agreed to come back to the
judge in 30 days with a status report on what their legal intentions are
Requiem argued that it needs the temporary restraining
order to continue with the momentum the organization has built to
renovate the theater. The nonprofit says it needs a permanent lease to
use and raise funds that would go toward restoring the theater, which is
cited as one of the few “acoustically pure” complexes in the nation.
On the other side, the various groups that own and lease
the Emery Theatre claimed Requiem has shown little progress in raising
funds to renovate the building. They said they would still like to see
the theater restored, but not under the management of Requiem.
UC also continued denying any direct involvement in the
case, instead arguing that ECALP handles the Emery building in its
entirety for the university.
Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, the two women who founded
Requiem, said after the hearing that the three organizations are trying
to eschew responsibility by pointing fingers at each other. In
particular, they pointed out that UC has consistently claimed a lack of
culpability, yet it’s also getting involved by asking the city to take
over the building.
Last week, emails revealed that UC is offering to give the Emery Theatre to the city.
UC Vice President of Governmental Relations Greg Vehr wrote in a June 21 email
to Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan that giving the building away would
allow the university to avoid becoming “a lightning rod in the private
dispute between (ECC and ECALP) and the Requiem Project.”
If the city takes over the building, the legal dispute
would likely become unnecessary and Requiem would probably be allowed to
carry on with its plans.
For an in-depth look at the situation and history between Requiem and UC, ECALP and ECC, check out CityBeat’s original coverage here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 14, 2013
The city of Cincinnati might take over
the Emery Theatre following a legal dispute between the nonprofit seeking to renovate the theater, and the group of leasers and owners trying
to push the nonprofit out of the building.