The Northfield Workforce Development Center was front and center during Monday night's meeting of the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
A representative of the building's potential buyer - Worldwide Stages LLC - expressed interest in seeing the company's vision for the building still come to fruition, despite the original purchase contract expiring in January.
Imagined by Worldwide Stages as becoming one of the largest music rehearsal venues in the country, the company first entered into a $9.2 million purchase agreement with the city of Spring Hill - the owner of the building - on March 5, 2020. Coincidently, that same day Tennessee saw its first reported case of COVID-19.
As the pandemic worsened, attempts to conduct building inspections and other routine procedures associated with large building purchases were made more difficult. The company also saw discussions halted with potential investors, who "became cautious about the future" as the pandemic worsened.
The company ultimately saw three extensions approved for the purchase contract, but allowed for it to ultimately expire on Jan. 15 of 2021. Nevertheless, Kelly Frey with Worldwide Stages appeared before city leaders on Monday and expressed his and his company's commitment to purchasing the property.
"We're pushing as hard as we can"
Speaking to the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Frey said that the reason they had allowed the contract to expire was that their "financing and due diligence wasn't complete" by Jan. 15.
"As soon as we entered into the contract, we entered into a global pandemic that closed down a lot of the resources that we thought were going to be available," Frey said.
"We're pushing as hard as we can. Our intention is to go forward and request again that we be able to close under the contract at the same purchase price, it's just going to take us a little bit longer."
Vice Mayor Amy Wurth told Frey that while she appreciated Frey's transparency, every day that the sale is delayed is a day in which the city could potentially place its library, police headquarters and more in Northfield - the original intent of the city in purchasing the building before concerns led to its proposed sale.
"We have critical needs that that building fulfills; we have a police station that was shovel ready and we could be in there today, we have a library that needs more space, so that building provides a lot of solutions to the city," Wurth said. "The longer we keep going, the more we as a city lose ground."
Frey said that he understood Wurth's concerns, and that his company would have a new sale contract available for the board to review within two weeks - a proposal Alderman Matt Fitterer was content with, arguing that city leaders could then decide to vote for or against the proposal at their own discretion.
To further illustrate the vision Frey and his company had for the property, Frey invited board members to tour the facility with Worldwide Stages staff as to help draw a clearer picture of the potential for the building.
"When we talked with our potential tenants at that location, you can almost see their eyes light up when they walk through the facility," Frey said. "They don't understand what it's going to be until they're actually there on sight, and then suddenly they realize this is a facility like no other in the world - we would like to provide that same sort of opportunity to the board."
Alderman Dan Allen suggested that as a way to verify Worldwide Stages' commitment to the project, the city could solicit from them a non-refundable deposit of around $100,000, which would not be applicable to the purchase price.
In an apparent attempt to reiterate his company's commitment, Frey had this to say:
"I hope the board understands how serious we are, how much work we've done on this to date, and we've actually got a publicly-traded company that's gone through the due diligence and committed to fund," Frey said.
"One of the things that's in the background is we've had a global pandemic - I understand it's been a lengthy delay, but I don't think we've had a situation like this before, certainly not in my lifetime."
The board will vote on whether to accept Worldwide Stages' new sale contract during their next voting meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16.