Lake Placid Developments CEO Michael Lobsinger appeared before Saskatoon City Council last night and made an appeal seeking resurrection of a deal his company had made with the city to purchase “Parcel Y” in Saskatoon’s Central Business District. Lake Placid had plans to build River Landing Village, an upscale hotel and condominium development. That deal died on October 30 of last year when the company failed to meet the payment deadline for the land following a number of extensions granted by the city. Lake Placid ultimately faced challenges in securing financing for the project after the global economy went south and lenders tightened the purse strings.
So, what has changed and why should we care?
Well, most importantly, the money is reportedly in the bank according to Lake Placid’s new partner, Dr. Karim Nasser who also attended the council meeting and provided assurances that he has the goods to immediately deliver up full payment for the parcel and to see the project through to its completion. Dr. Nasser is best known to be a respected professor and a generous philanthropist having donated $12 million dollars to the University of Saskatchewan. That kind of gesture should provide some assurance that the guy has access to cash. People don’t often give $12 million bucks away, and those that do probably feel some measure of confidence that money won’t be a big problem for them in the future. I think this guy is the real deal.
Also on hand at last night’s meeting was Manilo Marescotti, vice president of development for Marriot Hotels. Mr. Marescotti has indicated publicly that Saskatoon is a “development priority” for the upscale chain of hotels, and more importantly, that the chain is keenly interested in this particular development. This also strikes me as good news, and if I may say so, a darned good fit for this awesome project.
So what’s a city council to do?
After all, they did give Lake Placid its very “last chance” back in August of 2009 with a pay up or get lost kind of ultimatum, and who can blame them for that? At almost every given moment through the final months of the last chapter, Lobsinger claimed that Lake Placid was just days away from coming through with the cash. He said it like he believed it. I suspect he probably did. Still, council could only stand behind the guy for so long before they all started to look like clowns who had completely misread the situation. They finally dropped Lake Placid like the proverbial hot potato and brought Parcel Y back to the drawing board seeking new appraisals and beginning preparation for a new “request for proposals.” They had little choice at the time.
But…but…here he his again and this time he apparently has the cash!
I say, “Take the money baby! Take the money and run!”
1. Well, for starters, Saskatoon could really use another $200 million dollar project right now, and apparently cash is still hard to come by, at least at the quarter billion dollar level.
2. We’ve been trying hard to get something going on this land for a long, long time. Starting the process from scratch could easily take another 3 years, if someone else steps forward who wants to take a bite of this one. If it fails again, you and I could be long gone before this parcel sees further improvements. We’ve already jumped through the hoops to make this deal fly. What realistic benefit could we see by turning this opportunity away? It seems like a big risk to float given the history of “Parcel Y.”
3. Lake Placid has an ultra cool plan that has already been approved for the site and it appears that they’re ready to turn some dirt. In the world of $200 million developments, it doesn’t get much better than that.
4. The other guys don’t appear to be lining up to stake a claim. I mean, for goodness sakes, 200 million dollars doesn’t grow on trees, ya know?
5. Michael Lobsinger deserves this project. I know he really pissed us off when he kept promising to show up with the cheque but this is what we ought to expect from passionate people who put everything they have into really big ideas. They get so deeply invested that they can’t accept that they might fail. This is the kind of brain that you must have to get huge projects like River Landing Village off the ground. This is the kind of spirit and determination that it takes to crack tough nuts and do big stuff. Those failed promises weren’t lies. They were the words of a committed man who had already invested millions of dollars and hundreds of hours. Lobsinger is the kind of person who has the ability to believe even when he’s facing of the worst kinds of adversity, and that’s exactly what he faced when we fell into what many have called “the greatest financial crisis since the great depression.” And, while we were busy kicking him back to Calgary, telling him that the deal was dead, and that he’s a deadbeat, he was still getting up every day looking for $200 million dollars. He still believed that he could pull this thing off. That takes a lot of guts! There’s a certain coolness factor to that, so I love this nearly perfect ending.
Sure, let’s make them pony up with today’s fair market value. Let’s have a look at those books and make darned sure these people can pull this thing off. Let’s double check, and heck; let’s even have our smartest accountants count the cash. If and when we’re satisfied that they can do it, let’s let them go build us a village.
More from the Star Phoenix
Developers tout plan
Lake Placid still in contention for River Landing development
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Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate