Blog by Mark Longpre

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Olympic Village update

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson revealed Thursday that the Olympic Village developer has been given a stiff warning that they have to make their scheduled loan payments or the city will demand payment of the full $561 million it is owed.

Robertson admitted that city staff are concerned because Millennium Development Corp. paid the city only $192 million of the $200-million payment due on Aug. 15.

By Sept. 20, Millennium sold more condos and scraped together

$197 million, but the $3-million default set off alarm bells.

Millennium has another $75-million loan payment due in January, and the city will give the developer a chance to make up the $3-million shortfall at that time. The city also demanded that Millennium improve its sales strategy and fix deficiencies in units already sold.

Robertson tried to paint a bright picture of the future of the Olympic Village. “We will have a beautiful and vibrant sustainable community on the shores of False Creek,” Robertson promised.

But he admitted, “I haven’t got a lot of sleep on this deal since I became mayor.” He said, “we have the best marketer in the country”with condo giant Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing Systems at the helm.

But Robertson added: “Expect to see something in the very near future to crank up sales. We want to see a new sales plan, a robust sales plan.”

At the moment, only 35 per cent of the village’s 259 units are closed deals. About 60 per cent of Millennium’s 119 market rental units are rented out.

And of the unsold units left on the market, almost half, 48 per cent, are priced at less than $1 million, but another 24 per cent of unsold units are priced between $1 million and $2 million and 28 per cent cost more than $2 million.

As for the three bids for affordable housing that were submitted by Monday’s deadline, Robertson said the city will continue to evaluate bids and insisted that “the RFP [Request for Proposals] and the bidding process is still open.”

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman appeared to dismiss out of hand all three bids submitted so far, rejecting the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., the Portland Hotel Society and a third small non-profit housing operator.

Robertson said the city will stick to its commitment to set aside 20 per cent of the project for affordable housing, located in three buildings at the back of the village that contain a total of 252 social-housing units.

The mayor said the city may seek a housing operator for two of three social-housing buildings and run the third on its own, noting the city has been the direct operator of 800 housing units for over 30 years.

Outside the mayor’s briefing, Non- Partisan Association Coun. Suzanne Anton said it’s time the city abandoned the social-housing concept and put all units on the open market.

Anton called the Olympic Village “far too pricey” for social housing.

But both Robertson and Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs disagreed, saying at least one of the social-housing bidders is a serious contender and more will be sought.

Meggs accused Coleman of “interference in the open bidding process,” after Coleman swiftly dismissed the three bids city staff had barely opened.

“The question is, did the minister improperly interfere with the bidding process? We’re going to continue on and make this project work.”

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