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Developer McAllister named as chair of mayor’s new advisory committee on village

January 20th, 2009 · 12 Comments

As expected by faithful readers of this blog, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced today that he is forming an advisory committee from the development industry to help the city during the completion phase of the Olympic village.

They’ll be looking at possibilities for trimming costs over the next nine months. Yes, nine months until this baby is due. Which means you know what is happening right now. We’re getting (the act that leads to conception). But I digress.

Anyway, the chair of that new advisory group will be Ward McAllister of McAllister Ledingham, a former president of the Urban Development Institute and a guy who is now going through his fifth economic downturn since he started in the development industry.

The village’s construction costs have been estimated at about $500 a square foot, which with the price of land, soft costs and interests making up another $500 a square foot, which means those condos have to sell at $1,000 a SF just to break even.

Here’s the official release:

Mayor Robertson strikes Olympic Village advisory group
Mayor Gregor Robertson today announced an advisory group comprised of development-sector experts who will advise the City of Vancouver during the upcoming completion phase of the Olympic Village project. Vancouver City Council unanimously supported the formation of this group and its members at today’s regularly scheduled Council meeting.
The Mayor’s Advisory Group on the Olympic Village (MAGOV) will provide first-hand residential and commercial development knowledge and expertise to the City to help ensure a successful completion of the Olympic Village.
MAGOV will provide advice and assistance to help:
ensure the timely completion and marketing of a high quality project, maximizing the value of a successful 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games;
protect the City of Vancouver’s investment and mitigate taxpayer exposure incurred through the completion of the Vancouver Olympic Village project; and
enhance the well-earned international reputation of the City of Vancouver and its development industry.
“This advisory group will bring valuable expertise and insight as we move forward with the completion of the Olympic Village,” said Mayor Robertson. “We are committed to completing the project on time, as well as acting in the best interests of Vancouver taxpayers. The advisory group will help the City achieve these goals.”
Mayor Robertson will draw on the expertise of 10 volunteer members over the coming months to provide advice on the Olympic Village project. Members of MAGOV are:
Ward S. McAllister, president and CEO, Ledingham McAllister Properties Ltd. (Chair)
Maureen Enser, executive director, Urban Development Institute
Andrew Grant, president PCI Development Corp.
Rob Macdonald, principal, Macdonald Development Corp.
John Mackay, president, Strand Properties Corp.
Eric Martin, vice president, development, Bosa Development
David Negrin, president, Aquilini Development
David Podmore, president and CEO, Concert Properties Ltd.
Al Poettcker, president and CEO, UBC Properties Trust
Peeter Wesik, chairman and owner, WesGroup Income Properties
 “On behalf of all 10 volunteer members, we are proud to donate our time and share our expertise to ensure a successful completion of the Olympic Village project,” said Maureen Enser, executive director of the Urban Development Institute (UDI).  “Vancouver is a world-class city, and the Olympic Village will be a world-class waterfront and sustainable development. We’re happy to help make that a reality.”

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  • Dawn Steele

    Oh Frances – too funny!! A sense of humour is definitely a must in these dour days.

    But I’m afraid the dirty deed happened way back when TPTB at City Hall decided that a developer who could only scrape together enough for a 3% downpayment was a sure bet for completing our Billion-dollar Olympic Village for us – “on time and on budget.”

    The more I think about that figure (that’s “leveraging” of 33 to 1 despite a bunch of known risks and no room for error!!) the more I wonder how the sheer insanity of it could not have been starkly evident to anyone who was around from the outset.

  • mm

    So….shouldn’t the Mellinium guys be bankrupt at the end of this? I mean, like, lose everything? Why do I get the feeling that even after this blows up Malek and his buds will still be rich?

  • Shepsil

    I am trying to understand why the Mayor has asked for all this “free” advice from industry “experts”.

    It makes sense to bring them onside in helping the city make the Olympic Village a success, but what is their incentive here, other than to further their own interests. This is not necessarily a “win win” situation.

    One could also say this is akin to “hiring the foxes to guard the henhouse”.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    If anything is won as a result of this group it will not surprise me…

    Let me tell you, these folks are some of the best real estate minds in this province: Particulary Negrin, Grant and MacDonald (very much MacDonald)

    These are people who genuinely understand the predicament and will have REAL solutions.

    Kudos to putting them together and getting this done.


  • Listen Close

    Props also to the fact that Mayor and council were able to recruit a team of advisers that consists of some very prominent NPA supporters.

  • Steve Drinkwater

    One way in which the selling price of the Millennium Water/Olympic Village condos can be lowered, thus making them easier to sell, is for the City to retain ownership of the land and assign long-term ground leases to the condo owners.

    This approach is not new – it is in fact widely used for much of the housing already built along the south shores of False Creek.

    Although the City would forgo the sales revenue for the land, it would be a valuable addition to the City’s Property Endowment Fund.

  • T W

    The main and welcome impact is that the internal institutional bias at City Hall is dampened down or removed entirely. And also the recognition that the Olympic Village fiasco will have a collateral impact on all Vancouver developers, not only the Vancouver citizens

  • LP

    On a curious note, neither of the losing bidders, Concord or Wall, have representatives on the committee.

    One would think they would have more knowledge then the others due to the time and money they spent developing their bids.

    So were they asked and refused, or were they not asked and why?

    Just curious!

  • tommi

    I wonder what the density-hating, condo-shunning people will think of this committee, which consists of only developers. I know one of their arguments against this would be that it was developers who created this mess to begin with, so, why bring in more?

    On a related note, has Vision or NPA yet released their party campaign donations yet? We’ve seen the donations made to individuals, but, not the party. I know Vision made a big deal out of this and promised to release their list before the election. Haven’t seen either list yet. It would be interesting to see how much developers donated to each party.

  • fbula

    Responses to questions asked so far.

    1. The deadline for filing accounts of campaign donations is three months after the election, so in March.
    2. I think that Concord and Wall are quite properly avoiding any comment or intervention on the Olympic village, since of course they’d be viewed as being in a conflict of interest/sour-grapes snit/something.
    3. Interesting idea on retaining the ground leases, but I think that would mean the city would have to take over entirely as a result of Millennium going bankrupt for that to happen. I could be wrong on that one, but they do have an agreement for sale. Yes, they’re lending Millennium money, but that’s a different piece of paper.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    If you really wanted to have added to the bottom line, at the outset, you would have had absolutely not one stitch of social housing at that site. Frankly, it was never an ideal area and the disparity between the upper end condos and lower end condos was just too great. Make them all market and make up the social housing elsewhere.

    Yes, astute observation that Grant and MacDonald in particular are long-time NPA backers, but I think this is a problem that crosses party lines, in that, any help is great.

    As for Wall and Concord, Frances is right, they would be perceived as in a conflict, mind, Rob MacDonald has done a fair bit of JVing with Wall, so you’ve got a ton of expertise there already. And not enough can be said about Aquilini’s Negrin. Top notch.

    Kudos to Jim Hoggan for putting the whole thing together.

  • Curious Guy