Calling local governments’ desire to co-locate the Cleveland City and Bradley County planning and permitting operations under one roof a “worthy project,” Lillios offered to lease a 15,000-square-foot building at the corner of Inman and Church streets for that purpose.
The two-story concrete building, with unfinished basement and an operating elevator that reaches all floors, is the original headquarters of the former Cleveland Bank & Trust before its acquisition by First Tennessee Bank. First Tennessee continued operating out of the downtown facility until about a year ago. It has been vacant since.
As an incentive to local government leaders, Lillios is offering the first year rent-free. The effective first day was Monday.
The downtown advocate, who serves as a board member for both MainStreet Cleveland and the Museum Center at Five Points, and is past president of each, said if local government opts to accept his lease offer, he would impose no second-year commitments. However, he stressed Cleveland City and Bradley County governments would have first option on the property — building and parking lot — during the lease period.
Under his first-year proposal, local government would be responsible for the $6,334 in combined city and county property taxes. Government also would be accountable for utilities, storm damage and vandalism, any build-out items, building and parking lot maintenance, HVAC and the roof.
During the first year of the agreement, if approved, the drive-through and awning facilities would remain. If government extended the business agreement to a second year, the option would include potential removal of the drive-through.
As part of a bigger picture, Lillios suggested using the awning facilities as a tax-paying drive-through for city and county residents. Regardless, he proposed three transaction options for the second year if local government leaders were interested. The options include annual rent ranging from $38,500 to $54,000 depending on how much maintenance responsibility the tenant is willing to assume.
“This offer is made without requirement for an extended lease beyond the 12-month time frame,” Lillios said. “It is, however, my hope that your departments will make good use of the facilities and that the taxpayers of this community will appreciate the convenience of the central location and you will therefore wish to extend your time with a rental agreement.”
Lillios confirmed he supports local governments’ objective of co-locating the city and county planning and permitting operations. If such an agreement is eventually forged, the autonomy of each planning and permitting function would be protected.
“It’s a perfect location,” Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said, and later added, “This is a goal we would like to reach if we can afford it.”
In response to Rowland’s questioning, Lillios said he has made the same proposal to Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis, but not to the full Bradley County Commission.
Council members pondered a couple of options — one, to authorize City Manager Janice Casteel to discuss the proposal with county government leaders; or two, await the next joint session of the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission to negotiate interest levels.
But, Council members agreed to ask the Joint Planning and Inspections Study Committee, chaired by local developer Tom Cate, to review Lillios’ proposal and to set up a tour of the downtown building with the property owner. Cate is a member of the Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission. In a previous report to the Council, Cate said the Joint Planning and Inspections Study Committee is willing to remain intact long enough to help find a central location if the group’s recommendation for co-location is approved by both governing bodies.
Currently, neither the city nor the county has sufficient space to house both operations and neither has money available for new construction.
The former bank building, which is owned by Lillios’ family, was constructed in 1967 at the height of the Cold War era because the concrete-walled basement was intended as a bomb and fallout shelter.