Developer scraps $215 million project for former Evergreen Airport

Vancouver, WARedevelopment plans for the former Evergreen Airport site in east Vancouver have crashed.

Opus Northwest, the project’s developer, has backed out of the proposed $215 million deal after losing a Whole Foods grocery store as an anchor tenant as well as the project’s residential component. The Landing at Evergreen, planned on 59 acres north of Mill Plain Boulevard between Northeast 136th and Hearthwood avenues, was to include housing, office and high-end retail space similar to what Opus had developed at Bridgeport Village in Tigard, Ore.

The Evergreen project was announced in 2005.

Now the deal is off, said John Bartell, vice president of the Portland office of Seattle-based Opus Northwest. His company isn’t likely to proceed with plans to purchase the property from the Wally Olson family.

“You need anchor tenants to make a retail project of that magnitude go,” Bartell said.

A number of factors combined to undermine the plan:

– Texas-based Whole Foods backed out of the project after announcing its $565 million plan to acquire rival organic grocer Wild Oats, already doing business nearby in the Mill Plain corridor. Housing developer Matrix Development canceled its pre-arrangement with Opus to develop 221 townhouses on the site’s western tract, presumably because of slowing home sales and higher mortgage interest rates.

– A second anchor tenant and national bookseller also backed out, leaving the project with only one anchor tenant, a national health club.

City officials had hoped the development would become east Vancouver’s equivalent to downtown redevelopment, said Gerald Baugh, the city’s business development director.

According to people familiar with the deal, the property sale would have meant an estimated $15 million for the Olson family, heirs of the late Wally Olson, Evergreen Airport founder.

But a number of factors, including the weakening housing market, contributed to the project’s demise, Bartell said.

BY CAMI JONER, The Columbian

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