Uncertainty Surrounds Possible Purchase of Section of Freighthouse Square by “Creating a New Paradyme” Group

“The sign says, “Private Meeting,” and a number of people bustle about between a small, makeshift office and a large meeting room full of folding chairs just beyond a roll-up doorway. Preparations for that evening’s Creating a New Paradyme meeting are underway at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma.Nearby, Freighthouse Art Gallery and Fabric Fun are examples of the more traditional tenants of the shopping mall. The open and relaxed retail operations are in contrast to the energetic activity surrounding Paradyme’s preparations. According to retailers at the mall, the two differing styles may not be a compatible mix.A portion of Freighthouse Square located in the Tacoma Dome district, may be sold in the near future, and some retail tenants of the mall are nervous about the transaction.The real estate transaction – still up in the air over the details – involves one of the more recent of the mall’s tenants – Creating a New Paradyme. Paradyme is an organization involved with “private gifting” ceremonies, which draw hundreds of people from throughout the Puget Sound region, according to mall merchants.Several concerns have been raised during the past two weeks by tenants regarding Paradyme and the possible sale.The first concern of retailers in the portion, which may be purchased, is that of the day-to-day impact of the number of participants of the gifting activities at the east end of the mall. The lines and the lack of available parking for regular mall customers during the hours surrounding the activities are reportedly dropping business for some merchants.Paradyme is reacting to merchant concerns though, according to retailers located where the impact is greatest. Adjustments to where the lines of people are situated have been made, and merchants said the organization seems to be open to future accommodation – to a point. Parking has continued to be an issue.“It does directly impact my business,” said Sheri Grant, who owns The Cake Studio, Inc., a custom bakery located in the portion of the mall that may be sold. “There’s no parking by 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. I get no business from then until 6:00 p.m. My largest sales take place between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. I do miss that.”Another more general fear of retail tenants of the mall is that of the long-term stability of what the Better Business Bureau describes as a “pyramid scheme” operating – as a tenant and a landlord – at Freighthouse Square.An inability to obtain information about the organization, its leadership, structure, and purpose in possibly purchasing a portion of the mall, as well as any details of the sale also has entered into the retailers’ uncertainty.“As I understand the current negotiations, Creating a New Paradyme is negotiating a Lease Option, the option being assignable, and the decision of what entity may be assigned the option, if exercised, has not been determined yet,” said Kenneth Wayne, counsel for Paradyme, in an e-mail response to questions regarding the transaction.Keith Stone, owner of Freighthouse Square said there is no lease option involved with the transaction, and the “Phoenix” section of the mall would be sold if the deal goes through.David Stephenson, president of Limited Access NW, Inc., of University Place, confirmed that Paradyme is one of his firm’s clients receiving management services and it is based outside of Washington, but was unable to provide additional information.Stone said negotiations are still underway and being handled by his attorney.“They keep changing [who will be the actual purchaser or lease and purchase option holder],” Stone said. “They’ve gone through two or three names already. They’re not connected with anyone else in the state. They get their information from back east, they’re just coming up with their own trust name – something they’re newly forming.”Stone said there were things he initially did not like about the agreement and wanted changed.Amidst the negotiations, tenants are being relocated within other sections of the mall. Any impression that retail tenants are being dealt with unfairly is wrong, Stone said. He said all but one of the retailers being moved did not have lease agreements, and the gift shop that did, is having their lease bought out by Paradyme.“Joe [Gardenier, of Paradyme], is courteous enough to help them move and is fixing up new spots,” Stone said. “They’re getting a hell of a deal.”Stone estimated that Paradyme was spending up to $5,000 to assist in relocating retail tenants – something they didn’t have to do, he added.Still, unease about the organization continues among merchants, and sometimes about individuals involved with it. And Paradyme is finding itself under closer scrutiny.Recently, City of Tacoma Tax and Licensing Division officials paid visits to the organization – originally having some conflict with Paradyme’s security personnel – and made the decision that the organization did qualify as a business and does need to obtain a City Business License and register for business and occupation taxes.According to Dustin Jensen, manager of the division, Paradyme has until the end of next week to register, or face fines, possible jail time, and having their operation shut down.“As a tax man, very seldom do I get applauded for going to a premises,” Jensen said of his reception by Freighthouse Square merchants. “That scares me.”Jensen dealt with Paradyme’s counsel, Wayne, an individual who is accompanied by some degree of controversy and uncertainty himself.In a recent e-mail message Wayne referred to himself as an “International Lawyer,” but not a state bar attorney. According to Jensen, Wayne’s business card carries a logo of “The International Bar Association, North America Chapter.Inquiries to the International Bar Association resulted in a statement from the organization of no records of Kenneth Wayne as a member. A lawsuit filed this July for $7,003,500 in U.S. District Court in Seattle by “Kenneth Wayne, Public Minister,” does however, makes reference to a meeting of “The International Bar Association” in Seattle, where Wayne was evidently arrested for a reason not clear in his Complaint for Restitution and Damages.Calls for clarification on the lawsuit to the City of Seattle, and to Wayne, were not returned by deadline.Wayne also placed a full-page advertisement in the Sunday Oregonian newspaper this August drawing attention by attacking the Oregon and Washington attorneys general for their position on pyramid schemes. The advertisement invites the officials to participate in a private gift giving and receiving activity.But controversy, or no, the sale seems likely to go through. Stone said the Phoenix portion of Freighthouse Square has never paid for itself without an anchor tenant, and ultimately, he has a business to run. Though he sees promise in light and commuter rail coming to the neighborhood, he said he is tired of one end of the building paying for the other. And though he will sell, he said he is trying to look out for the interests of his retail tenants – and himself.“They’re not a regular retail operation,” Stone said. “I have to be careful. I want somebody on the line signing personally too. I do not want to get trapped.””