Red tape continues to delay the finalization of a lease agreement between Thomas Genin of Ajax LLC, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lowndes County Port Authority, further pushing a deal to sell the former Woody’s on the Water building at the Columbus Marina.
A new lease for the land owned by the Corps at 233 Marina Drive is still under review, Army Corps Manager of Operations Jonathan Johnsey said. He told The Dispatch the Corps is waiting for approval on a final version of the lease which includes revised dimensions for a downstairs seafood market and hours of operation.
“We’re waiting to hear back from the Office of Counsel in the District Office about the lease agreement,” Johnsey said.
The building sits on property owned by the Corps, which leases it to the Port, which itself subleases to tenants such as the adjacent marina.
Genin, who also owns the Blind Tiger, an open-air bar and restaurant in Bay St. Louis, has been working with the Corps and the Port since February to iron out a lease before he will close on a separate deal with the city of Columbus to purchase the building itself. While the Corps and the Port lease and sub-lease the land, the city has owned the structure since February 2020, when then-owner John Young gifted it to the city.
The city voted in January to sell Genin the building for $300,000. Genin hoped to close that deal by the end of February. In April, the council pushed the closing date to June 15 and then again to Sept. 15. According to City Attorney Jeff Turnage, the city is still waiting on the Corps to approve the lease.
“It usually takes a bit of time to get everything ready to close,” Turnage said. “My belief is as soon as those issues are ironed out with the Corps and the Port, it’ll be a matter of days or perhaps two weeks, but no longer than that.”
“The Corps of Engineers, the city, Mr. Genin and the Port Authority are all anxious for this to happen,” Port attorney John Crowell said of the deal. “Everybody gets along with no real disagreements; it’s just some things that have to be satisfactory.”
Genin declined to comment on the circumstances of the delay.
“We are still trying to work out a new lease with the Corps for a restaurant and retail seafood market,” Genin said.
Genin’s attorney, Lindsay Clemons, told The Dispatch they did not initially expect the lease agreement to take this long, noting when three parties are involved in the sale of one building, it becomes complicated.
“This deal involves not only the city of Columbus but the Port Authority and the Corps of Engineers,” Clemons said. “Jumping through all of the hoops of all of those different agencies has taken longer than we anticipated.”
Despite the numerous delays, Turnage told The Dispatch the city is excited for the deal to soon close and for Genin to open his seafood restaurant and market at the marina.
“The city is still anxious to sell it (the building) and anxious for the buyer (Genin) to have occupied it and turned it into a restaurant,” Turnage said.
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