Olympic Village: Two years after the bombshell

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

City hopes to recoup money from sales of north van properties

Bob Mackin
Van. Courier

Two years after placing the Olympic Village into receivership, the city is trying to wring money out of the assets seized from Millennium Development.

At a hastily called news conference on Nov. 17, 2010, Mayor Gregor Robertson revealed that Ernst & Young was put in control of the home-away-from-home for 2010 Winter Olympics athletes after Millennium defaulted on $740 million owed to the city.

In March 2011, city hall seized 32 properties estimated to be worth $45 million net from Millennium. The deadline for bids on two of the most lucrative properties was Nov. 9, but city hall refuses to disclose how many potential buyers expressed interest.

“Staff are reviewing the submissions and they will make a presentation to council in the coming weeks,” city communications manager Sandy Swanton told the Courier.

The city was offering a “strategically located property assembly” at 199, 127 and 131 Esplanade West in North Vancouver near the Lonsdale Quay Public Market, SeaBus terminal and ICBC headquarters. According to 2011 figures, the properties were appraised at $6.25 million. They include one-storey buildings that house a Starbucks, tailor shop and dry cleaner, plus a parking lot that was appraised at $3.3 million alone.

The other property open for bids until Nov. 9 was 260 Esplanade West, an entire city block with two and three-storey retail and office buildings described by the city as a “commercial investment property with significant redevelopment potential.” In 2011, it was assessed at $19.94 million but appraised at $28.5 million.

The deadline for bids on a nine-unit commercial/retail building at 1327 Marine Drive in West Vancouver’s Ambleside district was Oct. 5. That property was appraised at $5.5 million in 2011.

Last June, the city sold the former Daily Province Building near Victory Square for an undisclosed price. In 2011, it was appraised at $10 million and assessed at $6.996 million.

By the end of 2011, the debt remaining on the Village was $462 million. In April 2011, the city estimated a $48 million loss on the project, not counting the $170 million land cost.

Meanwhile, owners of 68 units worth an estimated $50 million are proceeding with a lawsuit seeking refunds. No trial date has been set, but the owners’ lawyer, Brian Baynham, is awaiting a case management hearing with Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon.

“I think it can be resolved in a couple of days, it’s not a complicated issue we think,” Baynham said. “The question for the court is whether (City of Vancouver was) a developer, as that term is defined in the act. Also whether or not Millennium SEFC, the company that built the Olympic Village, was a developer. Because all developers we say had to sign a disclosure statement, the failure to do that amounts to a breach of the Real Estate Marketing Act and if there is a breach of the act, my clients are entitled to rescind.”

Fenlon, coincidentally, presided over the unsuccessful 2009 application by female ski jumpers to force International Olympic Committee and VANOC to let them compete at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

By late October, 564 of the 737 Village on False Creek units had been sold and Rennie Marketing Systems was projecting sellout by 2014. In May 2010, marketer Bob Rennie told an Urban Development Institute meeting that he hoped to sell-out in two years.

The owner of Montreal’s Olympic Village, El Ad Canada, sold the property for $176.5 million to Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Trust in early November.

Three months before the Montreal 1976 Olympics, the Quebec government took over the 980-unit project. Fraud and conspiracy charges against developer Joseph Zappia were dropped in 1988.

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