ZaPow Gallery loses lease

Image from Patton's campaign page

Local community art gallery ZaPow seems to have lost its battle to renew its lease in the Battery Park building it has called home for over five years. Gallery owner Lauren Patton was notified yesterday, June 21, that her landlord’s offer for lease renewal had been withdrawn after Patton sought community support following a proposed substantial rent increase.

Knowing her gallery’s lease was set to expire soon, Patton says she repeatedly requested lease renewal terms from her landlord over the last six months.

On June 12, the lease renewal terms finally hit Patton’s inbox.

In that email, Patton was sent several offers ranging from a 17 to a 22 percent increase in rent as well as an additional deposit of several thousand dollars.

“We had 18 days before he was going to start putting up for lease signs in our windows,” Patton said.

As a community art space, ZaPow offers gallery placement to local artists whose work might otherwise go unseen. The proposed rent hike would mean passing those costs on to the many artists who pay a modest monthly fee for membership in the co-op.

Having recently attended an Asheville Grown Business Alliance workshop on negotiating lease agreements, Patton reached out to legal counsel in an attempt to mediate the situation with her landlord.

She also started a GoFundMe campaign to help mitigate the financial burden associated with a potential rent hike and notified local media outlets of the situation.

By June 22, the GoFundMe had raised almost $9,000 toward its online goal, which totals $10,000 including private offline donations.

“We’ve been really incredibly touched by the interest from the community in keeping ZaPow open,” Patton said.

However, yesterday, Patton received a letter from her landlord’s attorney requesting that Patton and the ZaPow Gallery take every internet posting down with reference to their leasing situation. If Patton does not comply, continued the letter, the landlord will bring a defamation lawsuit.

The same letter informed Patton that her lease is no longer available for renewal and ZaPow will need to vacate the space.

While still very early in the moving process, Patton has her eyes on other locations that might be a good home for the gallery.

“We’re looking at the South Slope, but that’s not a definite,” Patton said.

The ‘For Lease’ signs will go up in ZaPow’s windows on July 1.

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51 thoughts on “ZaPow Gallery loses lease

  1. boatrocker

    22% rent increase and a letter from an attorney asking any internet references to their situation be removed or face a defamation lawsuit?

    Really? *

    Asheville, meet the elephant in the room. Gentrification. It’s only been an issue for 10 years. Nobody has ever addressed this here so I’m sure it is a surprise to all X readers (snicker).
    Gentrification, meet the town you treated as a used condom. Use it, flush it, move on to the next town full of gullible types that use words like:
    community
    sustainable
    local

    Make quick cash, and screw that town. You got yours. Move on to the next victim.

    * Some day, free market outta town gentrifiers, you’re going to run out of towns to grind under the boot heel. When America is full of wage slaves and noveau riche types only and no middle class, who will you exploit? Who will be able to afford to shop at the properties you charge local business owners rent for when hordes of local Dickens type hungry children stare through your windows?

    You might actually have to perform lawn care without the aid of minorities in your gated communities! That and actually having to be an active part of your affluenza infected childrens’ education. How plebian!

    Not that you care, but this is in print for a grievance.

    • Lulz

      Add to that government subsidizing and increased property taxes by both local governments. Only in this area do we get re-evaluations 4 years before they’re due because Gantt and his cronies are simply too cowardly to admit that they are about to raise taxes. And they want to white wash it under the guise of fairness lulz.

      • luther blissett

        ” Only in this area do we get re-evaluations 4 years before they’re due”

        They’re getting re-assessed because state law specifies an acceptable gap between assessed value and market value before a new assessment has to be made. You dim obsessive muppet.

        Once more, LolLulx!zl;fkslfs: are you going to put your house on the market at its current assessed value?

    • boatrocker

      Fair is the weather, not life.

      Do you groom your own lawn?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Gordon

    What happened to all the philanthropists of the past?
    What happened to the Julian Price’s of the world.
    After a person has attained wealth and are in their 60’s isn’t it time to start giving back, and help the next person along just a little.
    Does one really need 10 houses?
    The pile of money just has to grow larger.
    Someone needs to explain to people that you cannot take this stuff with you, and if you give it all to your kids, they will never know how to make it themselves.
    It will probably be rented out to Starbucks and 6 more low paying wage jobs will enter the world, and then Asheville just starts to turn into every other place in America.

  3. Maybe I have been blessed with great landlords (RIP Mr. Lantzius), but is a deposit AFTER you have been an established tenant common practice these days? I won’t do the Xpress’ job for them, but a GIS search comes up with some interesting info.

    • Haywood Comics

      This building owner needs a serious shaming for his actions, this is ridiculous. Who ever heard of asking for more deposit from an established tenant?

      • Asheville Native, World Local

        All of Asheville. This isn’t the first long term tenant who has had the quick boot due to ridiculous lease renewal prices. And it really is a QUICK boot. It’s usually about a week after initial notification that everything is cleared out

    • boatrocker

      Sadly, if you were willing to do the Mtn X’s fact checking job for them, well, the Marie Antionettes of Asheville would not have a leg to stand on.

    • Lee Elliott

      If you’re referring to a GIS which reveals information a program called the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, it is a UK program with no US counterpart.

      • Annie

        No. She’s not. GIS stands for Geographic Information Services. It’s a technology that offers layered and filtered information on a geographical area usually by government bodies.

    • BledsoeLA

      I moved into the same building as Orbit DVD last year when I moved from Montford to West Asheville and was thrilled to discover that great local business – and I can walk to Haywood Comics down the street. I’m also a loyal ZaPow customer and wish Lauren all the best in finding a great space for the gallery. Forget Asheville; I don’t know of another business like it in the Southeastern U.S.

      I hope that local government leaders are paying attention to the challenges small business owners face as Asheville continues to grow. Yes, tourism is a boon to the local economy, but I don’t know of anyone who isn’t coming here because there aren’t enough chain stores.

  4. Matt Mittan

    Not to beleager a previous point made, but there’s some glaring info missing from this news article… Such as…
    1) Who? – Who is the property owner?
    2) What? – What was some of the verbage of the online posts seeking donations? The nature of the solicitation is kind of important to the context in understanding why a threat of defamation was made.
    3) When? – Other than a subjective comment about the timeline here, could actual communications/emails not be verified?
    4) Where? Ok – We know where…
    5) Why? Was there no attempt to ask about the reason for the rate increase? Do we know if they had the same rent pricepoint for the whole five years they were there? What have other rents in the prime neighborood done over the same time period?
    I love ZaPow and love the XPress, but its hard to arrive at an informed decision with such partial information in this report.

    Thanks for listening!

    • Lee Elliott

      1) Lauren Patton declined to name the landlord due to a potentially pending defamation suit.
      2) I’m not sure if any defamation did occur but I’m not versed in the law.
      3) Those timelines are verified with Lauren Patton
      4) —–
      5) There was an attempt to ask about the reason for the rate increase, but the gallery owner was unable to comment due to the aforementioned potential lawsuit.

      • Matt Mittan

        Lee,

        Thank you for the responses…

        I’ve offered some further thought on each of your comments above. Appreciate you.

        1) “Lauren Patton declined to name the landlord due to a potentially pending defamation suit.”
        – Property ownership is a matter of public record. All you have to do is contact local government. The deed is on file. The CO is on file. Along with business permits, etc.
        2) “I’m not sure if any defamation did occur but I’m not versed in the law.”
        – Neither are we, but surely you had access to some of the quotes from the online posts – in order to offer some context. Also, there are lots of lawyers in town that I’m sure would be happy to offer a legal definition of what constitutes defamation, without getting into the particulars of this case. Not everyone knows what it even means.
        3) “Those timelines are verified with Lauren Patton”
        – But that’s the person seeking community funding, correct? That’s the person who made the posts in question, correct? That’s the person who is being threatened with a defamation lawsuit, correct? When I was in journalism, claims weren’t facts until they were verified by at least two independent sources and had documentation to back them up – and never when the only source for the story was the person at the center of the controversy.
        4) —–
        5) “There was an attempt to ask about the reason for the rate increase, but the gallery owner was unable to comment due to the aforementioned potential lawsuit.”
        – The Gallery owner is not the property owner. And the Gallery owner… well, see my comments on item #3. On the comparative data… Both the city and the chamber of commerce maintain stats on rent analytics in Asheville. Also, was there any effort to contact a few of the other property owners, or tenants even, in the neighborhood to see if this is typical for that area of downtown since all the development?

        I hope my comments and questions don’t seem argumentative or judgmental in any way. They are not meant as either. It’s just that I see people on Social Media running wild with this story, offering all sorts of definitive opinions and judgement, and this impacts a lot of people’s livelihoods so – because of my appreciation and respect for local journalism – I am just trying to be a sharpening stone.

        Respectfully,
        Matt

        • Jake Frankel

          Thanks for your thoughtful questions and comments Matt. I agree that this story would be much more informative if they were addressed.

        • Lee Elliott

          Matt,

          I understand and respect your points here. The intent for the above piece was a quick post to update the public on the current situation. I am writing a more in-depth piece on rent prices in the central business district that should be out within the week. Most of your questions will be answered then.

          Out of respect for Ms. Patton’s current legal situation, I declined to name her landlord, but in retrospect I should have included the name of the company, at least. That company is Flora Properties LLC and they are based out of Tennessee (I did not get that information from anyone at ZaPow)

          • Matt Mittan

            Thank you Lee. I look forward to the full feature article. Rent cost is a major issue that threatens the very fabric of our local economy, and the long term sustainability of it. I’m glad you’re on it.

          • Lee Elliott

            Yes, according to filings found on simplicity.ashevillenc.gov.

          • Jane

            IT is either Flora Properties or Mog LLC. It is hard to tell who owns what with just a unit #.
            Why the heck is there taxes so low? they are paying half what they should be!

          • I think there is some confusion with that property with suites, units, etc. A NC LLC search turns up different information.

          • BledsoeLA

            Lauren’s email mentioned the owner living in Atlanta, but his/her LLC could still be based in TN.

          • Flora Properties LLC is NOT the landlord of ZaPow. They and Three Dog Bakery have absolutely nothing to do with any of this and we have a good relationship with Three Dog. They have always been good neighbors to us. -Matt Johnson, Co-owner of ZaPow

          • Lee Elliott

            NCMattJ,
            Thank you so much for clarifying that. Flora Properties LLC is listed as the property owner according to online city records.

          • Sherri

            You make great points, Matt, and I had a similar impression when I read the story. The entire intention here seems to be to automatically make the landlord the bad guy (and maybe that is the case), but even semi-responsible journalism should offer more information. This might include such thoughts as what the total current rent is and how that compares to current rents in the vicinity (the initial lease being started during a very low time in the economy may have meant that it was a bargain rate to reflect the overall economy struggles). It might also include the gallery’s comparative rates for rent to artists.
            How much per square foot are artists paying for space compared to the building rent?
            Has that rate to artists increased over the last few years?
            How does that rate compare to other galleries and would there possibly be room for an increase to offset the new building rent?
            Was there a reason given for the added deposit? (or have any rental payments been late – have there been any other tenancy issues?)

            I know that prices I pay for things in downtown businesses have been on the rise for the last few years as a reflection of a better economy, with fewer “deals” offered, so why is it so outrageous that rent should rise?

            I think the info here as well as the info on the page requesting financial donations was weak (I visited that page when I first read about this and thought I might donate, but the information was very limited and seemed to just intentionally bash the landlord. It seemed immature in that respect). I do feel for the gallery owners and the artists. I think most all of us would like to see a place like this stay if possible. But there is simply too little info to truly form a fair opinion of the situation. It will be good to see additional info and perhaps even some comments from the landlord that are considered in a balanced way, although it may be too late for that given the tone that has already been expressed.

        • Your points about responsible journalism are spot on Matt.
          Sadly MtnXp has neglected the “2 independent sources” and “paper trail” on more than this occasion. It’s very disappointing to see a once reliable indy media paper lose it’s credibility.

  5. matt

    they should have hire a lawyer, it is no way defamatory considering it’s completely true.

    • Jane

      You are correct:
      “Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and have been made to someone other than the person defamed.”

  6. Victora

    One only has to look at Seattle, (as well as Portland and San Francisco) to see what’s happening to artists and small business owners here. Seattle’s downtown became overrun with chain stores, making it impossible for the majority of galleries or small businesses to survive anywhere within the city limits. Houses were torn down and replaced by bland, multi-storied, storage unit-style apartment complexes. The Interstate is a parking lot all day long now, not just during rush hour. Seattle sold its soul to Amazon. What’s Asheville’s excuse?

    • Lulz

      Greed. Realize that the best and biggest land parcels are owned by a few.

  7. Jan S.

    Actually given the history of this building it’s not surprising. The Penney’s department store building was built in the 1950s on this spot (it used to be the building on the SE corner of Walnut and Haywood before that). Penney’s was the last department store to leave downtown, in the 1990s. Late, very late. Someone (I forgot who) bought the really wonderful mid-century building, saying they wanted to tear it down for a new building but that wasn’t allowed (don’t remember if it was city council or a commission who said no.) So drawings were done for a mid-century renovation–this was all in the paper, both Citizen-Times and Mtn X. But somehow, in the middle of the night one night the building was torn down. It was literally bulldozed in the dark of night. Next day people woke up and the building was just . . . gone! I cannot find the articles from the newspaper but maybe someone working with the paper(s) could. I don’t know if the current landlord is the same person, but from the actions described here, it wouldn’t be surprising.

    • Garry Byrne

      The building that was where 21 Battery Park is now? That took weeks to tear down. I watched it from my office window. It was no secret. Yes, they pulled down the shell overnight, but only after knocking out all the masonry between the columns, etc.

  8. Adam Strange

    The writer forget to mention the name of the landlord. I think that should be on here…

  9. Sam

    This is lame as sh*t. That was a great space for local artists, and my favorite gallery downtown, what a shame. Hopefully they find a new location soon. It’s disgusting to see some out-of-state building owner have an out-of-state leasing company boot this gallery out after 5 years just like that. I truly hope this trend doesn’t continue. If we don’t keep it local we’re doomed.

    • We ain’t closing down! We will be in our current location until at least September 30th. We are in lease negotiations for a new space as of today. We will put out more info on that once things are finalized. How does the Chumbawumba song go? :P

  10. “However, yesterday, Patton received a letter from her landlord’s attorney requesting that Patton and the ZaPow Gallery take every internet posting down with reference to their leasing situation. If Patton does not comply, continued the letter, the landlord will bring a defamation lawsuit.”

    That is the funniest thing I’ve heard all week. Don’t they realize that the Internet doesn’t forget? This is a fool’s errand.

    • Does that mean everyone who got this email from Zapow now has to send it back, or keep and destroy it?:

      “We represent over 108 artists from all over the country. More than fifty percent of our artists are from the Asheville area.

      In an email, our (ZaPow’s) landlord notified us that he is raising our (ZaPow’s) rent by 22%, requiring an additional $6,000 deposit, reducing our (ZaPow’s) rent grace period to two days and as the cherry on top, he gave us (ZaPow) only 18 days to decide if we will accept these terms and remain open in our (ZaPow’s) current location, close or move elsewhere.

      He has stated that if we fail to commit in writing to his terms by June 30th, he will put for lease signs in ZaPow’s windows on July 1.

      Let me repeat that.

      The owner of our space, who lives in Atlanta, gave 108 artists 18 days to decide the future of their livelihood at ZaPow.

      From the tone of his correspondence, it seems that he would prefer to fill our space with a National chain like Starbucks.

      We are scrambling to work with local commercial Real Estate Brokers and Attorneys to decide how to proceed.

      If you believe that indie businesses make Asheville great,

      If you believe that downtown Asheville should be more than a collection of chains and franchises,

      If you want to see art, remain in downtown Asheville,

      If you love the contribution that ZaPow makes to Asheville’s culture and you want us to keep bringing you the best in illustration, narrative and pop culture art,

      Please consider helping our art family.
      Share our GoFundMe page and donate what you can.
      We have set up some awesome rewards for you.

      GoFundMe.com/ZaPow

      108 ARTISTS WILL BE SO THANKFUL FOR YOUR SUPPORT!”

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