Auction today for isthmus land

Foreclosure: Developer had planned to build high-end condominiums

March 18, 2011 

OLYMPIA — The properties on the downtown isthmus where local developer Tri Vo proposed high-end condominiums are scheduled for a foreclosure auction today.

First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. is foreclosing on the properties, at 505 and 529 Fourth Ave. W., because developer Capitol Shores Investments LLC is in default. The auction will proceed at 10 a.m. today outside the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive S.W. Terrence J. Donahue of Eisenhower & Carlson of Tacoma, the successor trustee in the matter, confirmed Thursday that the auction will take place.

The bid for the property at 529 Fourth Ave. W. is set at $1,343,100 and the property at 505 Fourth Ave. W. is at $686,750, Donahue said. The properties will sell to the highest bidder.

Vo and project manager Jeanette Dickison, who also do business under the name Triway Enterprises, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Capitol Shores LLC bought the parcel at 505 Fourth Ave. W. from the Housing Authority of Thurston County for $1.95 million in 2008. It bought the parcel at 529 Fourth Ave. W. from Capitol Center LLC for $1.285 million in 2003.

The investment group owed the bank more than $2.48 million in payments, late fees, and interest, according to a Dec. 3 public filing. The company had until March 7 to pay or the auction would go ahead.

Capitol Shores secured loans from Venture Bank, a South Sound bank last based in DuPont that failed in 2009. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. sold the bank to First Citizens Bank & Trust Co. of Raleigh, N.C., which assumed the loans.

The foreclosure is the latest twist in a controversial issue that has played out over more than three years. It began when Vo’s company filed an application in November 2007 asking the city to raise building height limits on the isthmus to allow for structures as tall as 90 feet. That would have allowed for Vo’s proposal for Larida Passage, two buildings with 141 condominiums, offices, retail and parking.

One building would have been five stories, the other seven stories, which alarmed many people in the community. They said they would block important views of Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. Supporters of the condos said they would inject much-needed revenue into a downtown that has seen little market-rate residential development.

After a year of divisive debate, the Olympia City Council voted to raise height limits in 2008.

That sparked a backlash, and residents elected a majority of council members in 2009 who favored lowering height limits. The council voted in January 2010 to reduce height limits to 35 feet in the interim, and made that decision permanent in December.

Dickison, the project manager of Larida Passage, has maintained that the project is vested under the 90-foot height limits and the project could proceed. The application for the condos is still pending, and is under review by city staff, said Keith Stahley, the city’s director Community Planning and Development. There are no public hearings scheduled on the matter, he added.

Though Capitol Shores LLC may lose ownership of the properties, Stahley said the proposal could be continued by a new owner.

A group of local residents want to turn the Capitol Shores properties, and much of the isthmus, into a park. Gerald Reilly, chairman of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation, said his group wouldn’t be bidding on the property but he will attend today’s auction.

It’s unclear where the group would find money for the park; the group has raised more than $100,000 in pledges and contributions.

His group was successful in having language added to the city’s new parks plan that supports an isthmus park. But there is no funding outlined for an isthmus park, and the plan calls for a public-private partnership.

“We’re really watching it very, very closely and do plan to participate in what happens if ownership changes,” Reilly said.

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