John Allums, a senior vice president at Post, hopes to avoid an all-out brawl with Lardner.
"I don't know the history of all that," he says when asked about Lardner's contentions about the original plan's intent. But Allums stands firm behind his company's belief that State-Thomas needs some green space interspersed with its buildings and that the pocket park represents the best solution. "It's a scenario we've suggested. It's there. We would like to see it go forward."
Ultimately, the city council will have to approve the expenditure of any TIF funds for a park. Lardner knows he has one city council member in his corner. Laura Miller opposes the pocket park as it is currently proposed.
Although Lardner admits he is good friends with Miller's father, Philip Miller, the councilwoman denies that relationship has anything to do with her support. "My father worked in Dallas," she says. "He knows tons of people down here. It is irrelevant to everything I do."
Miller says she simply doesn't want a developer exploiting the city just because the State-Thomas TIF has been a success. "Post overbuilt," Miller says. "Now the taxpayers have to buy the company green space because it overdeveloped."
Miller is particularly irked at the notion that the city would buy a park space from Post when the nearby Griggs Park has been ignored. "We don't we take care of Griggs?" Miller says. "Why in the world would we buy a park?" Griggs Park offers visitors nothing more than a dried-out landscape dotted with a few scruffy trees and the constant sound of automobiles whizzing by on nearby Central Expressway.
Veletta Lill, the councilwoman who represents the State-Thomas neighborhood, has probably done more to advance Post's position on the pocket park than any other council member. Lill recently removed Lardner from the 12-member TIF board of directors, the panel that would have to approve a pocket park plan before it was sent to the city council. She didn't reappoint Lardner, Lill says, because he requested that he be removed from the board, although Lardner says he subsequently withdrew that request. In addition to dropping Lardner, Lill appointed (or re-appointed) three other members with Post ties to the TIF board.
Joining Post's Vice President Allums on the TIF board is its newest member Earl Latimer, a principal in the Monitor Company, a real estate firm that rents office space from the Post company. Councilwoman Lill says she is considering removing Latimer from the board and putting him on another TIF board. "I may just flip Earl," she says. "I didn't realize he officed with Post." The third person is Anne Crews, the wife of a former public relations consultant for Columbus. Crews, who was reappointed last year, says her link to the company won't affect her vote.
Lill says she hasn't made up her mind about the pocket park. She definitely wants a park built in the area in the next 18 months, she says. "I don't think anyone is particularly wedded to this site." Long ago, she got used to Lardner and Post representatives fighting. She recalls that Columbus Realty's Robert Shaw once said publicly at a meeting, "We're a big family in Uptown. We're just a big dysfunctional family."
In the summer 1997, long before their current fray over the pocket park, Lardner and Post found themselves on opposite sides of a zoning dispute over a plan to build an apartment complex on the historic Greenwood Cemetery.
At that point, Lardner notes somewhat ironically, he was the one who wanted to preserve the green space, and Post wanted to develop the cemetery. Post had bought land from the cemetery association only to discover later that historic paupers' graves were under the prospective building location. Lardner paid more than $100,000 for studies and lawyers, he says, in an effort to prevent Post from getting the area rezoned to build a high-rise. About eight months later, in what Lill touted as a compromise, Post reduced the size of its proposed complex (which it still hasn't built) and agreed to give back land to the cemetery association.
Lardner also has another beef with Post: The company gets all the credit. In the national media, Post and, more particularly, Shaw, a former football player (who played a year for the Cowboys) often receive credit for the revitalization of the State-Thomas district. Shaw had even won points for devising the catchy "Uptown" name.
As a result, Lardner has gone to great pains -- sending a long letter to a writer at The Wall Street Journal and forwarding copies to Mayor Ron Kirk, among others -- to point out the inaccuracies of that impression. There was a meeting, he says, where a group of interested State-Thomas parties concocted the name "Uptown." Lardner says he was part of that group.