UNT struck a $1.4 million deal to acquire New York Sub Hub and Naranja Cafe on Friday, two properties along Avenue C. NYSH, which has operated in Denton for the past 41 years, will operate for a final year according to the terms of the contract.
The North Texas Daily met with New York Sub Hub owner Hunter Christiansen to discuss the deal and his plans for the future.
What is the most recent update?
To start off, I’ve always been more on the business side of this and my dad has been more of the property side. I get a call from the [Denton Record-Chronicle] saying, ‘Hey we just want to get a quote about the deal between UNT and New York Sub Hub that was reached.’ I didn’t even know about it. They sent me the contract. My dad had signed a contract with UNT for $ 1.4 million about 15 days prior to when I found out. He didn’t say anything to anybody, so no one knew.
Did your father not want to worry you guys or was he just waiting for the right moment?
There’s some friction between him and the rest of the family and we can leave it at that. So that happened and from what I gathered from the contract is we have a year lease from UNT for one dollar from the closing date. Through the contract, it says there is a 45-day inspection period and a 30-day closing period. Whatever the closing day is, it will be a year past that.
What are the details of the one dollar, one-year lease?
UNT said that they needed this property as soon as possible for labs and classrooms but then they turned around and gave us a year. It shows that they didn’t need it right away. It’s more of a negotiation type thing — ‘sign this, contract it and we’ll sell it for this price, and then we’ll also give you that one year for one dollar.’ I think maybe from a legal standpoint the one dollar is so that it’s not free. Also, they get the property based on the value of the property now, instead of one year from now. Across the street and what is getting built up, property values are going to start rising.
What is being built across the street?
It is going to be luxury apartments. It’s going to be five stories. From what I’ve heard, it is approximately 350 [apartments]. I’m not 100 percent sure on that. Then there’s going to be five retails spots from this Avenue C to Collier street. It’s going to be a grocery store, three restaurants and then a UPS drop off place.
Before all of this happened, did you or your family ever foresee something like this happening?
There’s always been the threat of an ever-expanding UNT campus. We’re in our 41st year of business. This used to be a house from the late 1940s and we transformed it to what it is today. So, we go through all these years and never once was UNT knocking on our doors. Then come 2014 or so, with the new President, who’s got this big idea of what he wants to do. Nothing is going to stand in his way, it seems. You go back to this past June when we got our initial offer and the process was starting. That was when it became surreal that they want our property.
The problem is that they say to the public and to everyone that they want it for labs, classrooms and dorms to qualify for public use. But after speaking with the Vice Chancellor of Facilities, they want to enter into a joint venture with another developer and put a five-unit strip here with housing on top.
So, the fact that they can even threaten eminent domain for something that is going to be revenue producing from either UNT or to another private party, it seems as if it is using this power unethically.
Is this something that is going to go through or is your family business going to fight it?
It’s pretty set for us that my dad signed the contract to let the sale go through and it’s done with on our end. There are three phases to this. The initial final offer phase, the second phase is for special counsel and the third phase is kind of like a judge and jury. He made it to the end of phase one basically and it sold. The other three properties are entering into phase two now where they have that special counsel so now it’s a lawsuit from the state. It is actually the State vs. these properties. So, you get a couple of experts, who are supposed to be unbiased and now they start focusing on a real appraisal of the property, etc., and they go from there.
How is it going with you, your family and business?
We’re honestly caught off guard. It’s not what I would have wanted if I was in charge of this property. I personally don’t think that it’s right.
Why would UNT not be willing to let you stay as a business, instead of adding new ones?
My speculation on my part, is that they don’t like how it looks. They have their own little vibe going on and what the President said, which I have on audio saying, that he’s allowing the people to redevelop themselves as long as they match the style and color of campus.
We mentioned to let us change the outside of our building. They wouldn’t let us do that. We also mentioned, ‘Okay we’ll sell you the property, let us own our own spot underneath like a condo.’ They didn’t want to do that.
From the get-go we’ve been wanting to compromise and find a creative solution. They don’t want to do that. My dad sold willingly, as in before the court made him do it. But it was the threat that if, ‘You don’t take this, you could possibly take less.’
We’re a small family business here, we’re obviously not the state.
The real important aspect that I want people to pay attention to is — who ends up with this property when it’s all said and done? Will it be UNT with their classrooms, dorms and labs like they told everyone they needed the property for? Or is going to be in the hand of a developer with another private business and putting other private businesses underneath?
What many people don’t know is that my dad is kind of taking that money and going and not putting it towards another location. So, I have to figure that out on my own.
Featured Image: Sub Hub owner Hunter Christiansen works behind the counter at his Avenue C restaurant on Feb. 7, 2019. Image by Meredith Holser