Investors save Kokomo building from tax sale

KOKOMO, Ind. -- Investors of Kokomo’s Firestone Plaza have stepped in to save the building from the county’s tax sale.

A representative from Kipcor 219 LLC paid the $15,635.54 Thursday to remove the Firestone building from the tax sale scheduled for Friday, according to County Treasurer Weston Reed.

Kipcor 219 LLC is the company formed to get the property financed, and they currently have a mortgage on Firestone Plaza.

The deeded owner of the Firestone building is Home Banc Center, a Jeff Broughton company.

 Broughton has not paid taxes on the Firestone building in more than two years, according to the Howard County Treasurer Weston Reed.

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Call 6 Investigates reached out to Broughton’s attorney for comment Thursday and an investor with Kipcor 219 LLC declined to comment.

Reed said the individual who paid the $15,635.54 tax bill did not want to be identified by name.

In 2014, then Governor Mike Pence and mayors from Kokomo and Carmel gathered in front of Firestone Plaza to tout the expansion of California tech company Systems in Motion, now known as Nexient.

 

Job creation in Kokomo and Carmel was the hot topic of the 2014 news conference, and a state news release announced the tech company would create “up to 400 new high-wage jobs by 2017” and lease “up to 25,000 additional square feet of office space in the Firestone Building in downtown Kokomo.”

 

Instead, Nexient moved out of the Firestone Plaza in 2016, citing “maintenance and safety issues,” and relocated to North Washington Street in Kokomo.

 

Nexient was unable to tell Call 6 Investigates how many jobs they’ve created since the 2014 announcement.

 

“I apologize that I don’t have exact figures for you, but it’s not a massive number,” said Cristin Balog, Chief Marketing Officer for Nexient, on Friday. “I can see that we are currently recruiting for an open position in Kokomo on our website now.”

  

Call 6 Investigates raised questions about the developer’s past back in 2014, including that Broughton settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission and is banned from providing mortgage loan modification and foreclosure relief services, although Broughton is not barred from doing real estate activity

CALL 6 | Kokomo investor's past raises concerns | Work stopped on Kokomo development project amid planning concerns

The Firestone Plaza sign advertises coffee and lunch, but you can’t find those inside, more than three years after the announcement.

When Call 6 Investigates stopped by the Firestone building last week, we found missing glass, the elevator not working, construction debris and vacant offices.

Home Banc Center Inc, the deeded owner of Firestone building, is listed as “delinquent” status by the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

The company has not filed required annual reports in several years, according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

As Call 6 Investigates reported in 2014, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight sold two of her personal properties to Broughton for $100,000.

As of October 2017, Broughton has not received any city tax dollars for any of his projects including Firestone, according to deputy mayor David Tharp.

When Call 6 Investigates stopped by the Firestone building, Broughton’s assistant was sitting in Nexient’s old space and said Broughton was out of town and unavailable for an on-camera interview.

Broughton’s attorney released a statement to Call 6 Investigates in which Broughton pointed out only three of his properties, or 6% of current property holdings, have unpaid taxes.

Broughton said the other delinquent properties, 117 East Sycamore Street and 204 North Main Street, are both unoccupied.

“The Firestone Building, which is occupied, however, do not have a lease that extends past a point where we could lose ownership in the building by not redeeming the tax certificate,” said Broughton in a statement. “I can say without reservation, if the tax certificate were to be sold at the tax sale, it would be redeemed within the 12 month redemption period.” 

The Firestone building has several tenants, including a counseling office, a radio station and an IU Kokomo Art Gallery. 

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said he’s hopeful someone can improve the Firestone Plaza.

“The right players can come to the table and try to turn some things around,” said Wyman. “That's certainly our hope.”

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