Work set to begin next month on $1-billion Capital City Centre project in Colwood

Adam Gant may be one of the few Victoria residents not desperately trying to hold on to summer.

In fact, the founding partner of the League Group of Companies may be looking forward to the end of September more than anyone else on the Island as that’s the date he’s expecting work to begin again at the company’s $1-billion Capital City Centre project in Colwood.

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The site, where foundation and concrete slabs for underground parking have been poured for the first phase of development of the massive mixed-use project, has been quiet for weeks now.

That has led to speculation in social media forums and on some development blogs that the project is in trouble.

Gant said there’s simply no truth in it.

“I would say by the end of September, we’ll start seeing some of the sub-trades coming in doing some foundation work and staging. There will be a slow ramp up, but I would like to see us making some announcements by the end of September,” he said, noting the rumours that have circulated make little sense.

While Gant acknowledges other developers have walked away from projects even after concrete has been poured, he’s quick to point out they weren’t planning an entire community.

“They didn’t have $930 million worth of development to follow,” he said, noting the $73 million worth of impending construction sets the stage for the rest.

“Regardless of how long it takes, we will get this first phase done, and getting the first done allows a lot of other steps to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons to get this one done.”

Gant said he expects the final documents to be reviewed and signed for construction financing by mid-September, at which point League will be able to plow ahead.

The first phase of the project includes a four-storey residential building on top of a 35,000-square-foot London Drugs, three retail buildings and a six-storey office tower.

The full project will include 12 residential high-rise towers; four office towers; four-storey, wood-framed residential buildings with commercial components; two-storey townhomes; multi-storey office buildings; and a public plaza with various amenities.

Gant said there is some frustration because the company has to deal with rumours swirling about the future of the project and some of what he calls misinformation being spread online.

“This project is a meaningful one for us,” he said, noting it’s one of only a handful done close to home, while most of League’s investment activity has been across Canada. “It’s hard when you’re kind of singled out in a way where people don’t believe you are doing the right thing.”

Some of that has escalated to the point where the company is taking one blogger to court.

League is seeking an injunction against Rachelle Berube, who writes the blog Landlord Rescue (landlordrescue.ca) for comments the company believes are defamatory. Gant said the case will be heard next week.

Still, Gant says he embraces social media for the feedback that can help shape the company.

“We like honest feedback, analysis of results and criticism of strategy and approach. What we don’t like are people irrationally or in an unsupported way making accusations that have no basis in reality,” he said, noting that kind of rhetoric tends to have an effect on people who don’t have time to dig for the truth themselves. “We are not going to stand by any unbiased accusations.”

But that’s not the only battle the company has had to deal with this year.

Earlier this month, the B.C. Securities Commission issued a notice of hearing to look into allegations League broke securities law when it was promoting the sale of shares in a real estate investment trust.

The commission claimed League failed — while promoting the sale of IGW REIT securities through its website, brochures and Blue Book — to disclose that its owners and sole directors, Gant and Emanuel Arruda, were also trustees of the IGW REIT and are the owners, officers and the sole directors of IGW REIT’s management company.

Gant said they have been in contact with the BCSC and there will be a quick resolution. A hearing date has been set for Sept. 17.

Earlier this year, the League brand hit the headlines as a boardroom squabble erupted between the independent trustees of Partners REIT and League, the trust’s external manager.

The fight came to light as League wanted to replace the trustees, who responded by pushing to internalize management of the trust. That would have meant League would be out the management fees.

Gant said it would have been better had they been able to resolve the situation quietly and the trustees could have walked away saving face, but he defends the move to remove them.

“They had to go. Partners REIT would not do well with that group in place,” he said.

Some local League investors were concerned the headlines and legal proceedings could derail plans to take League public this year — some see going public as a means of getting their investment out quickly instead of having to wait and go through what can be a lengthy process to extract investment from a REIT.

“It’s the way to get the best value for people and best return. Otherwise, it’s a long, slow process,” Gant said.

By going public, League will be split into two publicly traded entities — a property development company that does not yet have a name, whose first investment will be the Capital City Centre, and League Financial Partners, which includes the company’s staff and will manage all developments.

The date for going public is a “bit of a moving target,” according to Gant, and requires, among other conditions, the construction financing to be in place for the first phase of Capital City Centre.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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