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Orr, Armstrong Say Restaurant Rent Plan Misunderstood

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says there must have been a misunderstanding when Daniel Orr submitted plans to revamp the downtown Pump House building.

Daniel Orr

Photo: Alycin Bektesh

Chef Daniel Orr, who's in talks with Columbus leaders to open a restaurant there -- if an agreement can be reached.

Bloomington restaurateur Daniel Orr says he’s begun lining up potential investors willing to back his renovation of Columbus’ Pump House into an eatery.  But Orr and city officials still haven’t reached an agreement on potential economic incentives.

Orr’s proposal called for the city offering rent of a dollar per year in exchange for his investment in the city’s downtown.  That number doesn’t sit well with Mayor Fred Armstrong.

“You make the investment and we’ll make the lease commensurate with what your investment is.  And it certainly won’t be a dollar a year,” Armstrong said.

Orr agreed with the mayor that his proposal was misunderstood.

“One of the things that really has gotten some people up in arms is that in my proposals I just kind of said ‘a dollar a year’ if we put up all the money.  But that was just kind of a starting point,” Orr said.  “We never thought that we would be renting the building for a dollar a year.  That was just something that we wanted to throw out there and get the conversation rolling.”

Orr said he’s receive inquiries from 10 to 15 people who might be willing to offer venture capital, adding he had to use a similar process to secure money to open his Bloomington restaurant.  Armstrong said the city will hold to a committee recommendation that Orr be given the first opportunity to develop the space, but the mayor says another investor appears to be waiting in the wings with cash in hand.  Armstrong said the city will not invest in the project directly, citing the volatile nature of the restaurant industry and the possibility the city could be left with little to show for what could be a seven-figure investment.  Armstrong and Orr both said they may be amenable to an amortized rent schedule, where the restaurant pays the city more for the space over time.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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