CentrePointe progress awaits permit

bfortune@herald-leader.comFebruary 28, 2009 

All's quiet on the Centre Pointe site on West Main Street as the construction company waits to receive a lane closure permit from the local district office of the highway department.

Bovis Lend Lease, in Columbus, Ohio, submitted a request for lane closings on West Main Street and Vine Street with the state highway department, said Kelly Baker, branch manager for the traffic permit section District office 7.

Normally, it takes between two weeks and a month to receive a permit. Baker expects to get back with the construction company early next week. He said Bovis will be asked to revise its plans for closing two existing left-turn lanes. No through lanes will be closed.

George Keppler, project executive for Bovis, in a letter to developer Dudley Webb, said after the permit is granted it will take about four weeks to obtain needed barriers and signs.

Keppler added in an italicized paragraph, "It is important to note that construction of the Centrepointe Project is NOT allowed to commence until receipt of the Approved Lane Closure Permit."

On Friday, Webb said he was not frustrated by the delay. "There are about 20 different things going on here — some of which are very exciting, relating to tenants, reconfiguration of the ground level to accommodate a couple of great tenants."

"The devil's in the details on these things," he said. "I know everybody's anxious to see something start coming out of the ground, but it just takes time."

Whether the shell of the tower can be completed in time for the 2010 FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games, as Webb stated in January, is in doubt. Webb does not want the CentrePointe to be an active construction site during the Games. "We don't want this thing to be unsightly," he said. "We promised that before, and that is still our intent."

But Webb added, "If we don't get started soon, there's not much we can do."

If work starts by late spring, "We're still on schedule," he said. "But if it drags on into the summer, it could change things. Right now, we're OK."

As part of the highway permitting process, Bovis will be required to put up two bonds, one for $10,000, another for $100,000, Baker said.

The bonds are, in essence, insurance until work on the 35-story high-rise is completed. If correct signs are not erected, or state rights-of-way are damaged, Baker said, "We can draw on the bonds."

When construction is completed to the satisfaction of the highway department, the money will be refunded.

Because time is of the essence, the highway department agreed to focus first on the lane closings, "just to get them going," Baker said. But Bovis will be required to provide information on sidewalks, curb design, driveway entrances, landscaping and any other improvements on the state right-of-way.

"Please note," Keppler said in his letter, "costs associated with executing the lane closure plan are in excess of $200,000."

Plans for the 35-story CentrePointe include 91 condominiums at an average price of more than $1 million and a 250-room J.W. Marriott luxury hotel.

Marriott's chief financial officer, Arne Sorenson said recently at an earnings call announcing a $10 million fourth-quarter loss, "The brakes on new construction are being and will be applied more dramatically than ever before. This is not likely to change for some time."

There is more risk for projects that are financed but not under construction yet, than for those that are under construction, Sorenson said. At a greater risk are projects that have paid a Marriott franchise fee and have signed a contract with the hotel chain, but have not received financing or started construction.

Webb wants both a Marriott franchise to use the Marriott name, and a management agreement with Marriott for them to run the hotel. The terms have been negotiated, but a contract has not been signed, he said.

The agreement is subject to Marriott's final approval of CentrePointe plans, including the hotel, Webb said. "They're not going to sign anything until they see the final plans."

A meeting between Webb, his architects and Marriott representatives is scheduled in Atlanta next week.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

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