Between a Rock and a Hard Place at Trinity Site

ON THE MESA FACING NORTH

Column by Greg Kendall

It sounds as though North American Development Group [NADG], the current developers for the Trinity Site, have become discouraged by the results of their attempts to secure lease agreements with other retailers and restaurants to lease the many available pads spaces planed for the Trinity Site development.

NADG seems to have become so discouraged that in fact, they are saying “adios muchachos” to the entire Trinity Site Project by requesting that it be handed over to Smith’s/Kroger. Council will discuss the request to transfer the developer contract to Smith’s/Kroger at a special meeting on Monday evening.

The agenda document for Monday’s special council meeting states, “During the initiation of the lease feasibility period, NADG has been dissatisfied with the results of preliminary leasing efforts. Because of this they are exploring alternative paths forward and have asked that the County consider approving the attached Assignment & Assumption, Consent, and Lease Modification Agreement.” You can view the entire agenda document by clicking HERE.

Smith’s/Kroger, on the other hand, knows that this is an excellent market for their flagship Marketplace grocery/retail store and are willing to push ahead with development of the Trinity site shopping plaza, as long as they too can have the same six months due diligence period that was given to NADG. 

Personally, it seems wrong that companies can promise to do something here in Los Alamos, use up a lot of valuable time that cost our schools rent money and then just pull out at the last minute. There should be some sort of serious penalty for pulling out.  NADG pretty much knew what they were getting into when they came here in the first place. Let’s face it, it is clearly risky to try to do retail in Los Alamos, everyone knows this, unless of course you’re the mainline monopoly grocer. Unlike other items that we routinely drive to Santa Fe for, most people don’t want to constantly drive off the hill for their grocery needs. Kroger knows that Los Alamos supports our mainline grocer.

The predominate attitude developing around town is that we are between a rock and a hard place, that we need to go with the flow and let Smith’s/Kroger take over the contract as is and let them add back the six to eight months of due diligence time, “resetting” the development clock to zero. 

Even though many people are excited about the new Smith’s Marketplace super store, I don’t believe that we are boxed in with Smith’s/Kroger. I believe Smiths/Kroger really wants to build their Marketplace store in Los Alamos and that they will develop the Trinity Site into their typical type of shopping center with a restaurant and other retailers that they have worked with before. They are so confident in moving forward that they are already building a Smith’s gas station across the street from the Trinity Site. 

But should Los Alamos go with the exact same contract, a contract that has led us to this spot behind a big rock?

There should be some compensation to our schools if Smith’s/Kroger waste our time yet again. There is nothing we can do about NADG pulling out, but we do have an opportunity to create some sort of penalty if Smith’s/Kroger pulls out in the Spring of 2013 after they do their version of “due diligence.”

The Sept. 24 council meeting documents indicate that council is being asked to give Smith’s/Kroger the exact deal that NADG had, including that provision that Smith’s/Kroger can request that the contract be transferred to yet another development company with no penalty or loss of deposit if they choose to do so.

The way the contract is written now, this could go on and on, unless we create some sort of downside for companies that waste our time and money. It’s high time for Smith’s/Kroger to get off the pot. It’s time for whoever is advising council on these contract matters to get tough with a REAL penalty provision for wasting any more of our time and money.

Smith’s knows darn well they want to be here. They know this community probably better than most businesses. They will not balk at a real pull-out penalty. We may not be in the driver’s seat when it comes to outside retailers who don’t know our community, but with Smith’s/Kroger we certainly can and should demand that they put up or shut up.

At the end of the council work session on Tuesday evening, Councilor Mike Wismer was clearly upset that Councilor Vincent Chiravalle had allegedly released closed council meeting information to KRSN AM 1490 about the NADG pull-out before the county was ready for it to be released to the public.

According to County Council Chair Sharon Stover this morning, Wismer is scheduled to lead a discussion about strengthening the rules for closed sessions at next Tuesday’s county council meeting during the council business portion of the agenda.

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