Aquilini purchase clears Vancouver's Olympic Village debt
City bailed out 2010 Winter Games condo project after developer ran into financing troubles
Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city has sold the remaining condos in the once-troubled Olympic Village development and finished paying off a $630-million loan.
The Aquilini Group, owner of the Vancouver Canucks, has bought the last 67 units for $91 million.
"That dark cloud that hung over it for many years has been blown away," Robertson said.
The city was forced to step in to secure funding the development after Millennium Development ran into financing troubles in 2008. In 2009, one year before the 2010 Olympic Games, the city entered into a financing agreement with the developer and the lender, and took on a $700M loan.
The roughly 1,100 units housed almost 3,000 athletes and officials during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and were later put up for sale as individual units.
In 2011, with sales lagging, the developer came up short on loan payments and went into receivership. The city then assumed control of Millennium Southeast False Creek Properties and the Millennium Water development, as the Olympic Village condominium project was called, and undertook to have the condo units sold.
"It's been a long road. It's been a patient and methodical approach by the city," Robertson said.
Robertson said the sale of the remaining units means the city will be able to contribute an additional $70 million towards amenities such as a community centre, parks, roads and utilities.
He said sale is a good deal for taxpayers, and a reason why he should be re-elected this November for a third term.
"The bottom line here is that we paid off the loan."
But critics such as real estate consultant Michael Geller said it's improper for Robertson to suggest taxpayers have not lost one cent on the project.
"We spent $50 million more than we should have on social housing units which the city still owns and could not get a non-profit group to take over. The city has also spent a lot of other money on infrastructure," Geller said.
City manager Penny Ballem admitted the city only got $70 million for the land, which was valued at something closer to $200 million.
But others say the city got the best deal it could, with many of the remaining condo units priced out of reach for most buyers.
"I think it would have taken a lot longer to sell the balance of the units which obviously would have cost the city money in terms of marketing and carrying costs," said Michael Ferreira, one of the real estate market researchers behind Urban Analytics.
With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams and The Canadian Press