Murray is trying to pull the plug on developer

Crosscut archive image.

The empty property across from City Hall (2010)

The hole in the ground mere feet from City Hall has long been a headache for the City of Seattle. Triad Capital Partners, the company awarded the contract in 2007 to develop what is known as the “Civic Square” project, has made almost no progress. Now, in the wake of accusations that a representative of Triad attempted to pressure Seattle City Council Candidate Jon Grant to clear the way for the project, Mayor Ed Murray says he is divorcing the City from the deal.

The City’s contract with Triad is up for its third extension at the end of the year. Murray said he would not offer the extension, and, in the meantime, the City will look into killing the contract in advance of the December 31 expiration date to take advantage of a hot real estate market.

Murray emphasized that this was a deal he inherited (along with the troubled seawall rebuild and a languishing streetcar, he added). Triad originally won the deal in exchange for a promise of developing a $25 million public plaza.

Blaming the subsequent economic collapse, Triad made little to no progress toward actually closing the sale of the property and beginning development. The original deadline to close the sale was the end of 2013. That was extended to the end of 2014, then again to the end of this year.

Parallel to the contract issues were issues related to permitting, which Murray said was in the hands of the Department of Planning and Development. As the project stalled, Triad’s development permits expired and, according to the Seattle Times, the department told the company it would need to reapply. But after Triad threatened to sue the City for listing an incorrect expiration date, the company was awarded a new permit.

Members of the Tenants Union, a tenants advocacy organization headed until recently by council candidate Grant, said DPD’s decision was illegal and filed a suit challenging the permit. It is that unresolved lawsuit that has been at the center of the recent scandal.

According to Grant, Triad Vice President Brett Allen intercepted him at a coffee shop and offered to make a forthcoming independent expenditure group, which would raise money to defeat Grant, disappear if Grant could convince the Tenants Union to settle the lawsuit. Allen sent several text messages to former Mayor Mike McGinn trying to set up a meeting with Grant, suggesting that a a deal could lead to a planned $200,000 campaign expenditure "going away.” He added, "Grant could simply instruct his attorney (Knoll Lowney) to accept our offer on the table (or make a counter).”

Grant went public with the encounter, calling it blackmail.

Despite an apology from Triad’s Allen shortly after the Seattle Times published the account, Murray decided to put to bed the rocky relationship. “I am extremely disappointed by these questionable actions,” the mayor said. “They do not represent the values of our city. Seattle expects and deserves better.”

City Attorney Pete Holmes is looking into whether the City can sever ties with Triad before December 31, although Murray acknowledged that doing so could very well bring on a lawsuit. But an early termination, said Murray, could give the city an opportunity to take advantage of the interest he’s received from other development companies. For all he knows, the market could crash between now and the new year.

In what appears to be an effort to save ties, Triad CEO Fred Grimm issued a statement late Wednesday announcing the firm had “severed ties” with Allen. “The Mayor’s comments this morning do not reflect who we are,” read the statement. “His remarks spring from the recent actions by one of our employees. These actions were not authorized nor in-line with our values or the long-standing history of this company.”

The statement seemed to hint that Triad would not go down without a fight: “We look forward to fulfilling our obligations under our contract with the City and fully expect them to do the same.

“It will be a great development.”


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About the Authors & Contributors

David Kroman

David Kroman

David Kroman is formerly a reporter at Crosscut, where he covered city politics.