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Lead developer of Quincy downtown project gets an ultimatum

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 18, 2014 11:25 PM

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Quincy officials have given the main developer of the city’s $1.6 billion downtown revitalization 30 days to begin the next phase of the project, or be kicked out of the development altogether.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Thomas Koch said Street-Works Development LLC was struggling to find capital to move plans forward, and was subsequently in default of the project’s overriding contract, known as the Land Disposition Agreement.

“We made a decision to put Street-Works on notice effective tomorrow under the LDA, that they have not met their benchmarks, they are in default, and they have a 30-day period to resolve those issues,” Koch told councilors.

Street-Works officials were not present at the meeting, and co-founder Ken Narva could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

Street-Works officials have been the visionaries and planners behind the redevelopment, Koch said. Plans included dreams of residential towers reaching to the sky, and streets bustling with restaurants and shops.

Yet months after breaking ground on a residential/retail block named Merchants Row - contained in the block anchored by 1400 Hancock St. – construction came to a halt.

Investors in Merchants Row have since said they are splitting up from Street-Works to restart the block’s construction with a private developer.

Latest problems surround the next phase of the redevelopment. In an interview after the meeting, Koch said Street-Works had missed permit filings for what is formally called Step One, the phase of the redevelopment to take place around the Ross Parking Garage.

In addition to the permit filing is a financial submission that shows Street-Works has purchased land in the development area and that the company has the ability to execute plans, Koch said.

Koch said the submissions were due in November; however, no extension was sought or granted.

“The challenge has always been with Street-Works whether they could come up with the capital, and by not meeting this benchmark, it’s obvious that they are having some trouble getting capital,” Koch said.

Councilors seemed unfazed by the developments.

“We’re doing exactly what the LDA contemplated we should do…the protections are coming into play now,” said City Councilor Brian Palmucci.

Councilor Doug Gutro said many residents had seen this coming before administrators wanted to recognize it. Still, the announcement has left no shortage of questions.

“The thing to do now is to look forward, and what does that vision look like. Is it pieces? One block at a time, or will we have the vision, master plan, and LDA?” Gutro said.

Koch said the city had reengaged the attorneys who helped compile the LDA to talk through next steps, and officials would begin pursuing backup options before 30 days had lapsed.

Though investors pointed to the cost of organized labor as one reason behind halted construction at Merchants Row, Councilor Joseph Finn was adamant that any future downtown construction include union work.

Beyond questions and demands, both councilors and city officials remained confident in the overall project.

“It’s important to make perfectly clear in terms of municipal development, this is the norm,” Finn said. “The [important] part is keeping our vision and continuing to move forward.”

Koch pointed to the relocation of the Town Brook, creation of the Hannon Parkway, millions in state and federal grants for the Adams Green, and the millions of dollars that Street-Works had already given to the city in consultant fees and extension deposits as successes.

Beyond paying for land acquisitions for the Hannon Parkway, majority of the downtown development to date has been paid for outside of city funds.

What exists today is a city primed for redevelopment, Koch said.

To those concerned, “I’d say do not give up hope, that I’m bullish in downtown and that we will be moving forward one way or another, with Street-Works or without Street-Works," Koch said. "We’re going to get it done."

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