Representatives of First Washington Realty, the Bethesda, Md.-based company that purchased the Village Shops, Corinth Square and the Fairway Shops last year, told the Prairie Village City Council on Monday that they were planning on moving forward with plans to renovate the Hattie’s Coffee building at Corinth Square.
A preliminary rendering of the renovation concept showed a refreshed exterior that features the same exposed cedar paneling that is a part of the facade of the Hen House Market installed in 2012. The improvements would also include the addition of an outdoor patio attached to Hattie’s, a sidewalk that connects Somerset Drive to the building, and improved signage for tenants.
The improvements would be paid for in part with funds from the Community Improvement District at Corinth Square.
The announcement came as part of an update to the governing body that came at the request of the city council. While First Washington representatives Alex Nyhan and Monica Mallory focused on the success the company has had since taking over in keeping long-standing tenants and in making improvements to the shops — including the recent repaving of the Village Shops parking lot – members of the city council took the opportunity to express concerns with the lines of communication between the company and the tenants.
Councilor Jori Nelson spent several minutes relaying conversations she’d had with Village Shops tenants who said they were “nervous about the future of the centers.”
Nelson said tenants had told her that First Washington had assumed a much more aggressive negotiating posture than previous owners, and that some felt that they had to hire an attorney to represent them in lease negotiations for the first time.
Nyhan responded that First Washington’s strategy was to retain all of the existing tenants, and that thus far they have been successful in that approach.
“Yes, there are negotiations,” he said. “But we’re retaining everybody, which I think it great.”
Both Nelson and Mayor Laura Wassmer expressed concern that tenants did not have a clear channel of communication open with the company’s Bethesda-based staff, though they noted that the Kansas City-based representatives had been excellent to work with.
“I know you care about our local merchants,” Wassmer said, “but there is a disconnect there. There is something that isn’t quite the way it should be.”
Wassmer encouraged Nyhan to arrange time to meet directly with local tenants to improve relations. He said he appreciated the feedback and thought it was a good idea.