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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The capital city is in the process of trying to evict Skyline at Waterplace amid claims that the owners haven’t maintained the property.
In a letter sent Monday to Michael Lepizzera, the attorney representing the Providence venue, the city accused Skyline of violating its lease agreement by not keeping its property in good condition and not taking the proper precautions “to prevent waste, damage and injury.”
The letter claims the city has received numerous complaints about the condition of Skyline’s premises. Those complaints include the venue leaving trash, waste, furniture and kitchen equipment outside “in the public right of way.”
“The city has made multiple requests that Skyline maintain the area and keep the premises in a clean condition,” the letter reads. “Skyline has failed to do so, and this continues to be an ongoing problem and concern.”
The city is asking Skyline’s owners to provide documentation of any improvements, maintenance, and repairs made since December 2019, as required by a lease amendment that allowed the venue to skip out on rent payments for nearly three years.
If the owner’s don’t comply, the letter states the city will “seek payment of rent from December 1, 2019, through August 1, 2023.”
Skyline has 31 days to provide the city with the documentation requested.
In response to the letter, Lepizzera didn’t mention the claims regarding the upkeep of the venue. Instead, he argued that the city can’t legally make Skyline pay the rent back, especially since its lease was amended several times to address the venue’s struggles throughout the pandemic.
Lepizzera accused the city of manufacturing “…dishonest reasons to move forward with its complaint for reasons other than non-payment of rent.”
“Those reasons are flat out erroneous, wrong and form absolutely no legal basis to evict Skyline,” he said.
Lepizzera said Skyline also “had no part” in the city’s lease amendments, which extended the venue’s rent abatement period amid financial hardships.
“Of the wide array of businesses impacted by the pandemic, Skyline’s business was at the tippy top of most impacted given the nature of its business as a large events venue,” Lepizzera wrote. “Not only did Skyline not have the ability to profit but its doors were shuttered for an extended period of time meaning it had no income at all.”
Lepizzera described the city’s legal position as “frivolous,” especially in regards to the latest lease amendment, which extended the venue’s rent abatement through January 2023.
“Skyline had requested a much longer rent abatement due to the pandemic,” he said. “The city agreed to extend the rent abatement for a much shorter period of time … It was the city that prepared the lease amendment.”
Skyline has opted to pay the city more than $72,000 in rent to cover the six-month rent abatement period, as well as for the months of February and March, though Lepizzera said it is being “paid under protest.”
Lepizzera said Skyline plans to take legal action against the city for the disputed rent payments, which the venue expects will be reimbursed for the six-month window.
“The hollowness of the city’s complaint demonstrates a hidden motive by the city for trying to terminate a lease without any supporting legal or factual basis and to wrongfully repossess a building that has been completely refurbished by and at the expense of Skyline,” Lepizzera said in a statement. “The city is seeking to be unjustly enriched at the expense of the tenant.”
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