Requiem Project Files Lawsuit over Emery Lease

Organization faced eviction with management agreement set to expire Aug. 3

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The Requiem Project filed a complaint today asking a judge to force the Emery Theater’s operating entity to enter into a long-term lease with the organization.

On Monday, Judge Carl Stitch is scheduled to rule on a motion to grant a temporary restraining order to stop the Requiem from being evicted from the building. The complaint states that the Emery Center Corporation asked Requiem to vacate the theater by Aug. 3 and has requested that Requiem return its keys to the building. It asks the court to declare that the Requiem is entitled to a long-term lease of the property based on a 2010 agreement that the two sides would work toward a long-term lease.

The Requiem Project is a nonprofit organization that formed in 2008 to redevelop the Emery Theater, a 1,600-seat, acoustically pure concert space on Walnut Street in Over-the-Rhine. The theater entrance is on the west side of the building at the corner of Walnut and Central Parkway, which includes Coffee Emporium and about 60 apartments.

Requiem founders Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon have programmed events at the venue during the past few years under temporary occupancy permits. The theater is not eligible for a permanent certificate of occupancy because it needs significant renovations — it currently doesn't have working plumbing or heat. Still, organizers have produced individual events, sometimes bringing in portable toilets and taking other measures to make the space functional. In April, the Emery hosted the Contemporary Dance Theater’s 40th anniversary celebration. It also hosted three nights of live music during last fall’s MidPoint Music Festival, which is owned and operated by CityBeat. MidPoint organizers were unable to secure the venue for this year’s event.

The theater is operated by the Emery Center Corporation (ECC), a nonprofit organization that subleases the theater from the Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP), a for-profit corporation that holds a long-term lease to the building from UC. All three parties — UC, ECC and ECALP — are named as defendants in the complaint.

University of Cincinnati spokesperson Greg Hand declined to comment, only stating that UC doesn’t have a relationship with the Requiem Project because Requiem works directly with the ECC, which subleases part of the building from ECALP.

The Requiem Project alleges that the intent all along was for ECC to lease the space to Requiem long-term, not just for Requiem to program events under a management agreement. According to the complaint, the Requiem and ECC in 2010 signed a Letter of Intent, which stated that the ECC would enter into a lease agreement with the Requiem “on substantially similar terms” as the ECC’s current deal with ECALP, the for-profit entity that oversees the rest of the building. That lease, signed in 1999, is for 40-years and renewable for another 40 years after that.

The two sides entered into a management agreement while negotiating the long-term lease, but the lease was never agreed upon. The most recent yearlong management agreement is set to expire Aug. 3.

ECC informed Requiem Jan. 16 that it would not renew the current agreement “for no cause,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that the theater cannot obtain a permanent certificate of occupancy because ECALP removed the heat and water systems while renovating part of the building into apartments, which were developed to raise revenue for the eventual renovation of the theater. The renovations of the apartments left the theater without running water, heat, bathrooms or fire escapes, according to the complaint, which notes that ECC let the theater sit empty between the time it took over its management in 1999 and when the Requiem Project came along in 2008. A permanent certificate of occupancy would allow regular programming in the theater, but the venue needs considerable renovations to qualify.

"UC refuses to even meet with the parties to outline its demands," the complaint states. "ECC and ECALP have stopped replying to Requiem's reasonable proposals."

The hearing is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Monday. 

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