Studio? We don't need no stinking Studio!
Yes, its true. No studio for moi! At the very last minute the evening before the scheduled day to sign the lease and receive my keys, I was emailed the latest lease which was to only have the proper business name as a change. Instead there was a higher rental fee incorporated. All this after several past go arounds with "change the lease" tactics by this property manager. The rent and terms for this property had been agreed to since day one. Of course it was done as handshake with many people present as honest people will do. Over the course of the next three months, this property company tried numerous times to change that number. Each time, after some stern words and me telling them I would just look elsewhere, they once again agreed to the agreed upon number and terms. In hindsight, I should have walked. I think their plan all along was to wait until the place was finished and then slam the fee hike in at the last minute. I do not think these folks had any honorable intentions of fulfilling their agreement. Funny, other developers in the area cautioned me about working with them and this property manager in particular.
As it turned out, the property manager had never done a commercial contract or build out before. His lack of experience and general ineptness turned into eight weeks of frustration. For eight weeks he blamed the city of Aurora, the office of Buildings and Permits, and even individual inspectors. He had no idea of the requirements for proper submission of permits - he did submit for them and they were quickly denied so there was no hold up other than this guy just refusing to comply with the process. I finally contacted people in the city myself and talked to the general contractor and learned all this. When I confronted the property manager, he did finally confess that it was his fault, he screwed up so now it's eight weeks of lost time. Meanwhile, I can't book certain jobs and neither can my associate members committed to monthly studio membership. We all lost some money. Even after admitting he messed up, he tried to slam in a rent increase and new terms, this time blaming it on his "investors" who were making these demands. Yeah, I have all the emails between us covering this. I'm not making this up! I did walk this time, due to frustration and knowing this was a shadier deal now but for some unexplained reason we agreed to the original terms and it was on again. Let me be clear that this property is an older building not compliant with code in several areas. Before the space can be rented commercially, it has to meet conditions, and these conditions are part of the process for receiving grant monies for development. The floor had to be fixed since it was of old asbestos tile. It had no restroom, no water, and the electricity was of older cloth insulation. Bare wires in many places. It was shut off. No heating or air conditioning. The walls had not been tended to in a while so they needed painting. My only request was for matte white paint and I would pay for it but was told it had to be done anyway. I had no other requests. I did ask politely if when they built the restroom, could they make it a little larger so it could be a changing room too. No problem. No charge. I went out of my way to not make any requests where it could be perceived that I was pushing for any upgrade or that they were providing more than necessary on their part to appease me. Everything done was required by the grant process and city codes.
I'm not posting this to slam any one person or company, I did not mention who or any names. Whats done is done but for those looking to open an business, any business, you have to beware of who you are dealing with if there are processes involved. I used a company the city recommended, Invest Aurora, to steer me to these developers. In fairness they have steered me to many other very honest and reliable developers and investors too. Its not them per se, but as Aurora grows, more less honest types are going to be moving in, taking advantage of the choice real estate and locations. Invest Aurora and the city need to start thinking about how to "vet" these investors to ensure they are the real deal. That they truly want to work with the businesses sent their way. That they honor agreements. Otherwise, after a bad taste, and as word gets around, potential businesses will look elsewhere. As it stands, due to lack of other suitable space its probably not in the cards to stay in Aurora. My business for this year, is toast. Its halfway over and I have no studio to work from, and have lost a fair piece of other work. Its ok, I'll figure something out. My business is usually that of an investors dream tenant. I require nothing other than basic things usually present already. I'm not a retail operation making changes with foot traffic wearing on their property. A photography studio is a quiet, non intrusive operation. I now just have to continue to look for that "dream" investor that appreciates a dream tenant.