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American Greetings deal subject of two council meetings

UPDATE: The special meeting of Westlake City Council scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30, has been canceled. Ordinances that had been on that meeting’s agenda will be addressed at Council’s Feb. 6 meeting.

By Kevin Kelley

Legal and financial agreements associated with American Greetings’ planned move of its headquarters to Crocker Park will be the subject of a committee meeting of Westlake City Council at 7 tonight.

Financial advisers and attorneys hired by the city to handle the complex deal with the greeting card company are expected to make presentations to the council members, council President Mike Killeen said. No final votes on the American Greetings deal will take place at this committee of the whole meeting.

In October, American Greetings announced it was resuming its plans to relocate from Brooklyn to Crocker Park after putting the move on hold for nearly a year. During that time, the Weiss family, members of which run the firm, completed a deal to take the company private.

In May 2011, the company announced plans to move its headquarters to Westlake. As an incentive to attract the company, Westlake agreed, in principle, to fund roughly $54 million in public improvements in and near Crocker Park. These include the construction of three parking garages and work on Crocker Road at an intersection at the company’s headquarters. The majority of the money for the public improvements would come from Westlake’s issuance of tax increment financing bonds, which generate payments in lieu of taxes from American Greetings.

The city will also grant American Greetings a tax credit equal to 0.5 percent of its income tax revenue over a 15-year period, provided the company meets certain payroll requirements.

American Greetings plans to build nearly 600,000 square feet of new office space at the southern end of Crocker Park. The company has promised to employ about 1,350 people once its headquarters relocates to Westlake, Mayor Dennis Clough said.

The mayor said the main detail still to be finalized is the exact dollar amount of bonds the city will issue for the public improvements. Construction bids for the parking garages have already been submitted, the mayor said.

The essential elements of the incentive deal with American Greetings have not changed during the past couple of years, Clough and Killeen said. However, the deal requires a significant number of complex legal and financial documents to be prepared and signed, the council president said.

Council has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday. If the documents can be completed to the satisfaction of all parties, a series of ordinances related to the American Greetings incentives would be voted on by council members at the meeting.

However, if the complexity of the documents prevents them from being completed by Thursday, council’s vote on the American Greetings ordinances may be delayed until its next regular scheduled meeting, on Feb. 6, Killeen said.



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