NoMa figures tangle in lawsuit
June 6, 2007
Rodman Jordan remembers the talks, eight years ago now, that inspired him and his former business partner to try to re-energize a huge swath of Prospector.
They envisioned a neighborhood full of lofts, boutiques and trendy restaurants. It would have a hip name as well: NoMa, short for North of Main and sounding like Soho, the famously trendy Manhattan neighborhood.
They tried, fixing up some of the buildings in the district, centered along Bonanza Drive, and Jordan spent months attempting to convince City Hall to loosen the development rules in NoMa. That, Jordan has long said, is critical to his blueprints for NoMa.
But the dealings became strained between Jordan and Mark J. Fischer, his business partner. In a lawsuit filed on June 1, Fischer’s side charges Jordan negotiated a kickback, tried to collect a secret real-estate fee and charged excessive property management fees, among other allegations.
The 13-page lawsuit, filed in Third District Court at Silver Summit, pits 12 business entities, mostly with interests in the NoMa district, against two firms controlled by Jordan. Fischer is the key plaintiff in the case and the 12 include well-known NoMa buildings like Rail Central, property at Holiday Village and the Centura Emporium. The Kamas Business Commons, in South Summit, is listed on Fischer’s side as well.
The lawsuit’s influence on the burgeoning NoMa district is unclear but, with it entangling some of the prime properties, it is likely the ambitious remake of NoMa will not proceed until after the case is settled. The sides agree that tenants in the properties will not be affected by the case.
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"I guess our success was our own undoing," Jordan says, claiming the Fischer side is impressed with the progress the Jordan-led district made in the last few years and saying since last fall has tried to "unilaterally" renegotiate the terms of the partnership.
Jordan says his attorney will file a counterclaim by mid-June. The sides are scheduled to appear in court on June 6. Jordan says the allegations that he negotiated a kickback and tried to collect the secret real-estate fees are "outlandish" and there is "no merit to them."
The lawsuit claims Fischer’s side has invested $640,000 and guaranteed the debt on another $18 million while Jordan’s side has put in less than $1,000. Observers have long seen Fischer as the financial muscle in the partnership and Jordan as handling public relations and the planning efforts with City Hall.
Fischer’s side claims Jordan did not handle money appropriately and has refused to provide an accounting. The lawsuit also says Jordan refuses to turn over records, including those containing financial information. Fischer’s side wants to stop Jordan from representing the properties, wants to keep him from taking or destroying records, demands that Jordan hand over checks, canceled checks and bank statements and requests Jordan give them his keys to the properties.
According to the lawsuit, on May 5, Fischer’s side fired Jordan’s firm, known as Ensearch Management, and appointed another Fischer-controlled entity as manager of some of the properties, including Rail Central. Jordan waited until May 21 to object and, two days later, Fischer’s side terminated development, construction, property management, leasing and sales agreements with Jordan.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit says, Ensearch on May 30 sent a letter to business tenants claiming the Jordan-run firm remained the property manager, rent checks should be sent to the same address as previously and the businesses should not accept changes to the rentals.
The lawsuit says Ensearch that day also delivered a letter to Jill Packham, described as the new property manager, saying Jordan’s firm remains in charge, demanding the person stop contacting the tenants and threatening to call the police if the person was talking to tenants at one of the properties.
Eric Lee, the attorney for Fischer’s side, calls the dispute a "little of a power struggle going on" and says the Fischer-Jordan relationship became "increasingly strained over the last several months." Fischer’s side is not seeking large sums of money, he says.
"The relationship has effectively ended," Lee says.