The Requiem Project on Oct. 15 amended its lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati and lessees of the property housing the Emery Theatre in Over-the-Rhine, 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 Court should remove UC as owner and trustee of the property, as UC has proved itself an unfit custodian,” the complaint states.
The Requiem Project, a nonprofit organization formed in 2008 to oversee programming and raise money to renovate the century-old theater, asks the court to award Requiem 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.
At issue is a 1999 court ruling that allowed UC to develop most of the building into apartments but stipulated that profits from the apartments have to be used to renovate the theater according to the terms of Mary Emery’s charitable trust, which required that the building serve the community. Fourteen years later, the apartment operators say there are multiple mortgages on the property and no profits.
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 stating that 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 programming the theater.
The Requiem’s cofounders, Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, maintain in their lawsuit that ECC and UC are purposely blocking Requiem from moving forward with the original plan to incrementally update the 1,600-seat theater and allow programming to continue during the process.
Although UC owns the building, it subleases the property 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 told Requiem in January it would not renew its management agreement “for no cause,” according to the lawsuit, and asked Requiem to vacate the building in August. The complaint also seeks damages.