Ask hotel corp to honor predecessor’s agreement with a family, instead of stealing their home
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Chicago-based corporation Aparium Hotel Group purchased a boutique hotel in downtown Memphis called The Madison. Aparium claims on their website to have a "singular, community driven and collaborative approach to hospitality" that "creates properties that are integral pieces of the cities they inhabit."
In a singular act of greed that belies this supposed "community driven and collaborative approach," Aparium is trying to force an eviction of Christopher Reyes, a local artist, his partner Sarah Fleming and their two young children from a 2nd floor condo they’ve owned for 25 years. Not content just to kick them out of their home, Aparium is also seeking $102,000 in court costs and other fees from the Reyes family. The details of the case are complicated by the fact that Aparium bought the first floor & basement of the building via a tax incentive project that gave them the master lease to the property. When the tax incentive expired, they were supposed to give the family back its title for one dollar, according to a sublease agreement attached to the master lease. Instead, they claimed that the family was using the property in default, and sued to remove them from their 2nd floor home. Rather than send the case to mediation, a General Sessions Court judge sent the case to trial, and on March 27th, that judge sided with Aparium, ignoring all defensive evidence that proved their claim to the property.
To add insult to injury, Christopher and Sarah are fixtures in the creative community in Memphis. They are the personification of what Aparium claims their brand is all about - two people who are “engaging, inspiring, individual, and real,” who represent the distinct local culture of our city, who have actively contributed to “maintaining and celebrating the unadulterated character” of Memphis. Christopher Reyes was a pioneer of downtown revitalization, moving into the 2nd floor loft in 1993 when the area was largely abandoned. In the years since, he and Sarah have been key members of the creative team that paved the way for development opportunities like the one that Aparium took advantage of. Their creative work has been featured in murals, films, commercials, advertisements, websites, installations, urban art, and community events in the Memphis area. Their devotion to their community has provided support to countless local musicians, filmmakers, and artists.
In the community’s outrage over this ruthless act of gentrification and corporate bullying, a group called Stand for Creatives organized a rally in support of the Reyes family, calling on Aparium to live up to its brand and do the right thing, demanding dignity and fair treatment for this family of artists.
A few concerned citizens wanted to see positive outcomes both for the Reyes family and to resolve this PR nightmare for a company that had pledged significant investment in the downtown area, that had promised to hire local creatives to develop its newly acquired hotel, and that was receiving significant tax breaks and tax-payer funded grants to do so. In an effort to bring the parties together, these citizens worked behind the scenes to facilitate an out of court settlement meeting between the Aparium CEO and the Reyes family. These negotiations came up empty. No details were released, but no settlement was reached, either. It’s obvious Aparium failed to do the right thing.
Aparium needs a wake up call, so let’s give them one. By signing this petition, you are asking Aparium to honor the Reyes family’s claim to their home. If Aparium wants to use the 2nd floor of the building for their company, they need to provide fair compensation to the Reyes family by purchasing or renting the property from them. They can’t simply take it by force. We pledge to keep you informed as the case makes its way through its appeal process.
After you sign below, please take the next steps: Share this petition on your social media pages. And please, consider donating to the Reyes family’s legal fund to support them in their appeal of this case (it’s not cheap fighting a corporation in the courtroom).
If you would like to read some of the large amount of news coverage, visit this Google page.
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