Construction on the Eckhardt Avenue hockey dormitory has been delayed after financing fell through, but a consultant brought on to oversee the project vows it will move ahead and all trades will get paid.
Alex Fraser of Citation Ventures confirmed the sale of city land did not go through and that the 150-bed dormitory will not be finished by the August completion date initially given. However, he said he believes it is a 10-month project that can still move ahead after the sale is finalized.
“We’re moving ahead. It’s not just as simple as closing a land deal,” he said. “We’re looking at the end of February or early March to get going again, pay off the trade payables and put money aside to pay for construction so we don’t have to start and stop.
“As long as there’s no skeletons found in the closet in the next week, we’re hoping to file the documents.”
Council approved the sale of nine city-owned lots totalling 1.3 acres on Eckhardt Avenue for the purchase price of $925,000 in November. Soil testing on site began immediately, and fences were erected to guard drilling equipment placed on the site. While many remarked how much work had been conducted initially, progress stalled in the last several weeks.
Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said he couldn’t really discuss the issue as land sales fall under in-camera subject matter, which is to be discussed by council members today (Friday).
“I am disappointed, but I was very encouraged to see the interest in the lenders to come out here,” he said, noting it’s a positive that the new player has met with the architect, the Okanagan Hockey Academy and others. “Right now the offer on the property has failed. We have a non-refundable deposit, but I remain hopeful that something can be worked out to make sure the trades are looked after and that they can move ahead to make something that’s viable for Penticton, positive for the hockey school and positive for everyone.”
Fraser said he and his partner, Art Fennell, were called in late November to help find investors for the project. He said developer Loren Reagan had financing in place when he approached the city in September for the project, but the lender backed out at the last minute.
“We’re new to this. We just got in, and we’re doing the best we can,” he said of Citation’s involvement, noting they first saw the budget for the project in the middle of December.
Citation may be new to Penticton, but Fraser said his investors are familiar with the type of project: they work with those who have brought more than 300 dormitory projects to universities and colleges throughout Ontario and the Maritimes.
“This is going to be a revised, ramped-up project,” he said.
Fraser said Citation is not renegotiating the price of the land, but they need to conduct some “due diligence” regarding the work conducted on site before closing the deal.
Less than $1 million in trades work has been completed so far for the $15 million project, Fraser said, adding that contractors with payable amounts outstanding will be covered. “They are going to get paid,” he said.
Fraser said he believes in the project after meeting with Okanagan Hockey Academy representatives, and that they’ve assembled a “cohesive unit” of players alongside Reagan to push the project along. Support from Mayor Ashton has been strong, he added.
“We’re making sure we have the money to keep going,” Fraser said. “We’ve strengthened the team to make it better.”