UNDERSTANDING THE TRUTH BEHIND THE EFFORT TO SAVE THE PHOENIX CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER AND GARDEN

(A Fact Sheet for the Media)

The Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix (CUAGP)

For Immediate Release
Further Information: 480-758-2863

The Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix (CUAGP) wants to clarify many of the items reported on and released by True North Company on the other side of the issue. Whether to preserve the Phoenix Chinese Cultural Center has become a hot topic in newsrooms throughout the state and nation. With this in mind, we are unable to respond to every inaccurate charge or statement by the other side. This Fact Sheet will allow us to address some of the issues at the core of the dispute. Should you need further clarification, we are always available by phone or email.

CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER IS NOT A FAILED PROPERTY: True North Company is lying to the public when it says or implies the Chinese Cultural Center has died. True North is trying to bury the Center alive by driving out all the Chinese businesses and eliminating all the Chinese elements at the property. They want to destroy the evidence and history, but they will not succeed.

• The Chinese Cultural Center was a successful project, and despite True North’s efforts to discredit it, many residents still use the restaurants, medical shop and travel agency at the Center, and it remains a unique visitor attraction. A historical and cultural place, visitors come to see the unique rooflines, prayer garden and stone carving elements.

• When built in 1997, the total square footage was 167,000, of which 46% was on the ground floor and designated as retail space. Thirty thousand square feet of the ground floor space was taken up by the anchor store, the grocery store. True North in their press releases authored by Jason Rose admits that at its peak the Center had 46% Chinese tenant occupancy. However, True North and its spokesman Jason Rose distort the truth when referring to these numbers and attempt to make it sound as if the Center was only 46% per cent occupied. Actually 46% occupied by Chinese retail shops represents 100% occupied on the ground floor of the property. (The Center was designed as a mixed-use commercial complex, strategically combining retail shops on the ground floor and office space on the upper floors, one complementing the other. The office space has been largely rented out, and even now, despite the fact that True North refuses to renew leases, it remains at near full occupancy.) Last month alone, several businesses reported to us that they went to the Executive office to request to rent space and they were told that the office area was at near 100% occupancy.

• In an effort to drive the remaining Chinese businesses out, True North has embarked on a campaign to deceive the public into believing that the Center was closed and in fact they repeatedly refer to the property as the “Former Chinese Cultural Center.” (The property remains the Chinese Cultural Center as according to the CC&R’s no name change can be made without a vote of the board, and at this writing no vote has been had.) Despite this fact, True North has caused Google, Yelp and even Trip Advisor to post on their sites that the place is “permanently closed.” The result is that the businesses that rely on social media and web results for traffic are suffering. This active campaign to fool the public into believing that the Chinese Cultural Center is closed in an attempt to drive the remaining Chinese businesses out of the Center must be stopped and True North should be held responsible.

THE PHOENIX CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER IS NOT A REGULAR EVERYDAY COMMERCIAL PROPERTY: Public money was used to arrange and pay for trips to China to help obtain Visas for craft masters. Additional city and state resources were used in the creation of the Center:

• A review of the Declaration of Condominium and Covenants and Restrictions for the Chinese Cultural Center demonstrates that the Center is far from an ordinary property. By looking at several CC&R Sections (10.4, 10.11 and 10.13) one can easily see that under the Master CC&R and specific other guidelines, changes to the roof line, the exterior Chinese elements and the Garden require a public hearing. This is something True North is desperately trying to avoid, so they are attempting to make broad changes by requesting piecemeal permits. So far, the city has refused to be duped by this tactic, and we hope they will continue to view any further permit requests with a skeptical eye, especially while True North is under a Temporary Restraining Order issued by State Court.

• Obtaining Zoning Commitments

• Freeway Signage to Direct Public to the Site

• Participation in Many Public Events and Sponsorships, Including Chinese Week, Sister City Activities, etc.

• Built with the Support of the City and Collaborative Effort of City Employees and the Chinese Community

THE PHOENIX CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER IS A HISTORICAL LANDMARK FOR THE CITY OF PHOENIX:

From the air, from the freeways, from the city streets, on the web, in social media. On radio, newspaper and television, the Center has been recognized as a true landmark and significant demonstration of history, culture and diversity in Arizona:

• In its role in promoting cultural business exchange, the Center is responsible for great economic impact and has promoted city growth. Attracting many Asian businesses to Phoenix, many new immigrants to the city, as well as International Students to ASU. It should be noted that ASU currently enrolls over 4,500 Chinese students each year. These students spend approximately $50,000 in tuition alone, that adds up to $225 million per year. They generate many millions of dollars in rental income, while supporting retail businesses, and they contribute to the tax base, as well. The economic impact in real dollars is billions, not millions. Any damage to the Center will cause the region serious economic harm.

• The Prayer Garden didn’t just happen. In order to obtain the required zoning to construct the Chinese Cultural Center, the developer promised the city and the neighborhood that it would build a Chinese Garden and have the facility open and available for use for public cultural events. For many years, the Phoenix Chinese Cultural Center served as the site for the annual Chinese Week, as well as other cultural activities.
• Defining the Center’s purpose as the promotion of ties between the United States and China, the Center was built with the mandate from the city that the Center be used as the hub for Chinese cultural activities. At the Center’s Grand Opening commemorative tokens were issued, announcing to the world that the project was “Dedicated to Promote Sino/U.S. Cultural Understanding-Make Phoenix a Better Place to Live.” This commitment is echoed by the prominent freeway signage used to announce to all drivers the historical nature of the Phoenix Chinese Cultural Center as you near the property.

• The Center is a project which cultural, historical, religious, commercial and civic improvement aspects. It has been a joint effort between the city and commerce…an important project designed to promote the cultural exchange between East and West.

PROPOSITION 207 IS NOT APPLICABLE IN THIS CASE BUT SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY DOES:

True North is using Proposition 207 to hold the city hostage as they attempt to bypass a public hearing in this matter. They use the threat of a 207 lawsuit against the city to then inflate and extort the value of the property in sales negotiations with potential Chinese buyers. They purchased the property in June of this year, less than four months ago, for 10.5 million dollars and they are currently asking for 30 to 40 million dollars. Call it extortion, corporate greed or even down right theft…one thing’s for sure, it is not reasonable:

• True North cannot claim Proposition 207 is applicable since there is no financial damage to them if the property were to keep its Chinese elements, roof tiles and distinctive look.

• True North would have to prove that something the City did in relation to the property decreased the value of the property. This would be a hard claim to support, since the Chinese community has already offered $13 million for the property, just three and a half months after True North paid a reported 10.5 million dollars for it. An increase in value of $2,5 million does not represent a decrease by city hand.

• Additionally, True North cannot make a Prop 207 claim because a prior Land Use Law or Regulation was enacted before Proposition 207 was voted into law. There is no doubt the city would prevail if they argued that the Chinese Cultural Center was built in 1997, some nine years before Prop 207 was enacted. The Center was built under certain conditions and stipulations from the city at that time, therefore exempting the property from 207 conditions.

• But the real reason Prop 207 doesn’t apply is that True North has to prove the city implementation of the Land Use Law has reduced the Fair Market Value of their property. In other words, if the city refuses to allow True North to change and destroy the Chinese elements, in order for the developer to receive Just Compensation from the city, they would have to prove that the city’s actions devalued the property. Considering the $13 million offer from the Chinese Americans, just over 3 months after the $10.5 million purchase, how would True North prove devaluation? Answer: they can’t! In fact, it is very likely that the property is actually worth more as the Chinese Cultural Center than if it were turned into just another modern office building.

THE TRUTH ABOUT A DEAL AND OFFER FROM THE CHINESE COMMUNITY:
True North received a $9,618,000 mortgage for the property. The reported sale price was $10,500,000, which means the out of pocket cash for them in this deal was less than $900,000. True North has purposely deceived the media and public by stating that we have not responded to their ridiculous in the press negotiations. Here’s the efforts we have made thus far to buy back the property:

• The community presented True North two offers: The most recent was 13 million dollars cash, an amount that would give them a pretty good return for their $900,000 investment. Unfortunately, that offer was formally rejected by True North through their legal counsel.


CONCLUSION
The Chinese American Community are a serious people. We intend to keep up the effort each and every day until the future of the Phoenix Chinese Cultural Center is secure. We urge True North and its partners to contact The Chinese United Association of Greater Phoenix directly, not through the media, when you are ready to sit down at the table face to face and sell the property.

For further information: 480-758-2863
Simon: thomassimon124@gmail.com

 

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