Park Pointe developer insists “all systems are go”

Wellington exec expects loan to be renegotiated — conservation groups criticize development as inappropriate use of valuable site

By Kendall Watson

News of the possible auction of Wellington Park Pointe’s development site on the slopes of Tiger Mountain may have rattled some, but not the development company’s Vice President Ron Slater.

After the company defaulted on loan repayments and a trustee’s sale of Park Pointe was announced in August, it appeared the long-beleagured development proposal was on the brink, joining a myriad of other construction loans that went sour this year.

The Park Pointe property — a 102-acre parcel of land zoned for development near Issaquah High School — was used as collateral in securing a $10.8 million loan last year from Regal Financial Bank.

But according to Slater, reached by telephone this week in Calgary, Canada, the proposal is far from dead — it’s merely a sign of the times.

“We’re just restructuring our loan financing, as many firms are these days,” he said. “It’s a matter of time until we can come to an agreement.”

For over a decade, Park Pointe has faced a myriad of challenges.

This past June, the Park Pointe owner joined a host of other developers both nationally and locally as they defaulted on loan payments as the contracting economy left many over-extended.

The problem is so severe in Seattle that, according to the New York Times, the local real estate market has the highest proportion (over 30 percent) of troubled construction loans in the country.

Slater assured The Reporter that the auction sale date, currently set for Nov. 6, can easily be extended or canceled and he expected the date to pass uneventfully.

“These negotiations take time. We’re still doing the work necessary to advance (Park Pointe),” he said. “All systems are go in terms of moving forward.”

Slater also said they are continuing to move forward on the “lower bench” plan, which includes a transfer of development rights with Issaquah “and other agencies.”

Often referred to as TDRs, the credits were proposed as a way to preserve undeveloped private property currently zoned for residential homes.

He declined to specify plans further.

Wellington Park Pointe LLC is a joint-partnership between Canadian investors registered in Washington as First Wellington Crown Corp. and another unnamed private investor.

Speaking on behalf of the lender, Regal Financial Bank representative Alice On confirmed the loan was in default and the foreclosure process initiated, but declined to comment on negotiations with Slater.

According to Regal, the amount of the loan now owed is $11.9 million.

Conservation and environmental concerns were anxiously monitoring the developments, but sanguine about the any possible outcome.

Cascade Land Conservancy spokesman Steve Dunphy said they didn’t have a firm plan to acquire land, but wouldn’t rule it out.

He took the opportunity instead to criticize Park Pointe’s continued plans to press development in an area that is environmentally so significant.

“We’re not surprised,” he said of the foreclosure notice. “It seemed this was a project that was always on the edge financially, and in these tough economic times we’re not surprised (by the notice of trustee’s sale).”

Doug Schindler of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust agreed that plans to develop the site remained controversial and contrary to the best interests of the community.

“We continue to hold the long-term view that preserving the forested area is the best option,” he said.

“This is a very complicated deal. There are a lot of different parties looking at this. Everything is on the table at this point.”

Meanwhile, city planners continue to move forward with a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

City Planner Peter Rosen said the final report, including minor changes from the draft report issued earlier this year, will be issued in November or December.

“(The EIS Reort) has been 10 years in the making,” he said. “There will probably be some additional mitigation measures and more testing on stormwater, but it’s mostly confirmation of previous findings.”