OTTUMWA — Blackbird Investments has broken a long silence after a week in which a suit against the company by a contractor made headlines and a mortgage against the St. Joseph Hospital was revealed.
According to an announcement by the city, the statement was first given to council members Tuesday afternoon and then released to the public.
Blackbird has proposed a new housing development at the site of the former St. Joseph Hospital. The plans are different from the renovation of the building into high-end apartments that was initially suggested. Demolition of the former hospital began last year, but came to an abrupt halt, leaving the work unfinished.
Questions are also swirling about the company’s planned tower in Des Moines. Des Moines media outlets have reported Blackbird’s demolition permit and development agreement with that city have expired. A company spokesperson said Wednesday those reports were inaccurate.
Blackbird’s statement is the first comment it has made since November, when it released a one-paragraph statement. The statement claimed “many inaccuracies” in media coverage, but does not give any examples of the purported inaccuracies. It said the company’s leadership is “absolutely committed to successfully executing our mission of providing clean, safe and affordable housing for people in every community we serve.”
The statement, issued under Blackbird President Justin Doyle’s name, said the stalled project in Ottumwa is due to a dispute with a contractor. While the contractor is not named in the statement, Elder Corporation has filed a mechanic’s lien in an attempt to force the sale of the property for what it claims is an unpaid $1.58 million bill.
Blackbird disputes that claim and the issue is currently in arbitration. It said the contractor claims the work is “90 percent complete,” but the company said an independent expert involved in the arbitration put the figure at 16 percent.
“To date, we have paid the contractor $1.37 million dollars [sic] for work completed. The bottom line for our project in Ottumwa is that we are unwilling to pay for work that has not been completed. When possible, we will resume demolition before the arbitration process is complete, which does not preclude the pursuit of additional legal remedies,” the statement reads.
Most of the statement focuses on the issues with the contractor. It did not attempt to explain the mortgage Blackbird took out with RCHP-Ottumwa, LLC., for a line of credit for up to $800,000 shortly after acquiring the site.