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Polygon Northwest interested in riverfront property
EVERETT - The City Council last week got some answers on the long-stalled Riverfront Development project.
City administrators learned last month that the developer Everett contracted with to redevelop the site, OliverMcMillan, wants to sell the property to mass home builder Polygon Northwest. Belleveue-based Polygon has a letter of intent to buy it from OliverMcMillan, which is based in San Diego.
If OliverMcMillan sells, the council would have to approve the transfer of the development rights.
It could take months before anything solidifies, public works director Dave Davis said last week. Polygon is now conducting due diligence on the site, a first step in deciding whether or not it wants the site. This initial step should last through the spring, Davis said.
The Riverfront Development project is nearly 100 acres located in the northern part of Lowell on the former Simpson-Lee Mill site and a former landfill. The city signed a contract in 2005 with OliverMcMillan to develop the site into a high-end mixed-use development by 2017. OliverMcMillan obtained construction permits in 2009 during the Great Recession, Davis said.
When OliverMcMillan sought residential developers to build homes on part of the property last fall, Polygon thought it should buy the whole thing. Council members now want to know if Polygon can meet the contract’s expectations of a high-quality development.
The contract requires OliverMcMillan to make its buildings energy efficient (Silver LEED certified), construct a methane recovery system to handle landfill gases and create green spaces.
The city sold the land for $8 million. There is nothing in the contract language preventing OliverMcMillan from flipping the property at a higher price, Davis said.
Everett, meanwhile, has spent millions improving the land and cleaning up a former landfill as part of the public-private partnership even though the land sat empty. As part of the deal, the city built a park, moved its animal shelter and is building a roundabout at 41st Street.
The city is set to invest more than $50 million in utility infrastructure and land improvements. The city began improving the riverfront under a 1991 plan, buying the former Simpson-Lee Mill site in 1993 and the Eclipse Mill property in the 3300 block of Chestnut Street in 2006.
The council last week signed off on building a $1 million riverfront trail on the site. The trail will be paid for with state Department of Commerce dollars.
The city has stopped any public works projects relating to sewer and water connections as Polygon could have different needs, Davis said.
The continued expense has left some residents upset.
Transferring the land means more legal fees and staff time, longtime Lowell resident Gail Chism said. “I don’t think that’s fair. All of us are paying for that.”
The city will invite Polygon representatives before the council to talk if things solidify between OliverMcMillan, chief administrative assistant Debra Bryant said.
“Polygon understands what it is, they understand the challenges, but they understand the opportunities too,” Davis said.
OliverMcMillan was looking at big box retailers for the site last fall. That work now has slowed down with Polygon’s interest, Davis said. 


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