Developer’s doublespeak

So, San Diego developer OliverMcMillan, which bills itself as an “internationally-renowned firm that develops and transforms ordinary locations into unique, special places,” says it lost more than $7 million on the Everett riverfront project that it bailed on late last year. Of course, over the years, OliverMcMillan said a lot of things.

In 2005, when seeking the contract, OliverMcMillan officials said “the city’s riverfront would be the company’s top priority.”

Obviously Everett was never a top priority, but turned out to be an investment which the company then “flipped” as the economy improved. After sinking millions of dollars into the site, and promising millions more (an estimated total of $80 million in tax dollars), the city sold the property to OliverMcMillan for $8 million in 2007. This turned out to be a mistake. At least without getting assurances that the developer wouldn’t turn around and sell the property, a guarantee Everett has garnered from the new developer, Polygon Northwest, which bought the property from OliverMcMillan for $18 million this year, as The Herald’s Noah Haglund reported Tuesday.

Critics of the original deal said the city was giving the land away and should wait. But the city, understandably, believed selling the land at a bargain would be worth it if it meant getting the project underway, and eventually bringing a return on the investment. But OliverMcMillan delivered only talk.

In April 2008, when the deal was finalized, OliverMcMillan President Paul Buss said that despite the nation’s housing slump, mortgage mess and weakening economy, his company was “bullish on Everett.” He said retailers were still very interested in the property. Later that year, the company announced that Cinetopia, a Vancouver, Wash., luxury movie theater company, was the first tenant. In 2010, it said the development also would be home to a farmer’s market. There weren’t many announcements after that.

Then, in February 2011, the company telegraphed what was to come: OliverMcMillan was no longer commenting on the project, but Jim Reinhardsen, managing director of Heartland, a Seattle real estate consulting firm, was. He said the original plan was “still the vision … still on track.” He said that OliverMcMillan continued to work to “secure potential retail tenants.” But then Reinhardsen said, “I want to manage expectations. The desire to push forward has been very strong. There isn’t enough anchor interest to make it work.”

Which brings us back to OliverMcMillan selling the property to Polygon for $18 million.

Meanwhile, the company hypes its $2 billion in other projects in Honolulu, Houston, and Atlanta, to name a few.

So, if OliverMcMillan really lost money while owning the riverfront property, good.

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