Wyndham project moving forward in Avon
September 16, 2013
AVON — Despite losing a project manager and receiving protest over their selection of a replacement, Wyndham Resorts is guaranteeing their downtown project will be completed.
On Tuesday, the town of Avon unanimously approved a motion for town staffers Eric Heil and Scott Wright to review a completion purchase agreement between Wyndham Worldwide and an affiliate of Guggenheim Capital, of New York City, Wyndham's partner on the project, which would guarantee its completion.
"We're hoping to be complete in the final block of 2014 and fully operational by the 2015 World Championships," said K. Erik Brandt, director of strategic development with Wyndham Worldwide. "It will be 58 units, higher-end presidential units."
“We’re hoping to be complete in the final block of 2014 and fully operational by the 2015 World Championships,” said K. Erik Brandt, director of strategic development with Wyndham Worldwide. “It will be 58 units, higher-end presidential units.”
The project will be located on a small parcel of land between the Seasons at Avon building and Avon Center.
'Working through issues'
Brandt said the agreement under review will allow Wyndham to take advantage of asset transfer financing on the project.
"It allows us to spread out the financing, almost like a mortgage," said Brandt.
Councilmember Buz Reynolds questioned the need for this particular type of review in a project.
"I don't remember us having to approve asset transfer in a project. Why now?" he asked.
Town Attorney Eric Heil said the measure was an effort to enact a further level of review on the project.
"With a lack of projects like this over the last four years, we don't have much of a track record working through these issues," he said. "Wyndham is a well known name, and we have every confidence (in them). They have showed us pictures of the project and what they were going to do. … We understand there's going to be a company formed, specifically acting as the assignee, and so we just want to be able to see what the financial capabilities of that newly formed company to act as the assignee has to perform under the development agreement of the project."
Wyndham Vacation Resorts in February received unanimous approval for the project from the Avon Town Council.
Prior to that approval, Wyndham hosted a bid for the job and selected Horizon Construction in January.
"Because Horizon is not locally based, our partners in the project, Guggenheim Capital, of New York City, wanted a local project management team in place," said Ted Hunter, a senior vice president of development planning and construction at Wyndham Worldwide. "Evans-Chaffee Construction Group was recommended to Guggenheim by a local contact due to their reputation, experience and capabilities."
The selection of Evans-Chaffee received criticism from local residents due to Avon councilvmembers Chris Evans' and Todd Goulding's involvement in the company. Evans and Goulding both voted in favor of the project in February as part of its approval, which passed, 7-0.
"Chris and Todd pushed hard to rush the approval for this project," said Amy Phillips, an Avon resident former councilmember.
"Guggenheim approached Chris Evans in mid-April, fully a month and half after we had our approval," Hunter said. "Following the resignation of our full-time project manager and after some two months of discussions, Wyndham hired Evans-Chaffee as our local project managers for an interim period expected to end in September. Horizon Construction remains the general contractor on the project … Wyndham Worldwide globally has a zero tolerance policy toward any improprieties in the performance of any corporate business."
Town manager backs out
Goulding and Evans sat out on the discussion. As the attention to appearances is especially acute right now in Avon regarding the Wyndham project, Town Manager Virginia Egger also relinquished her involvement in the completion purchase agreement review.
"My husband and I own common units within … Guggenheim LLC," she said. "So the question is, 'Do we have a conflict of interest?'"
Heil recommended Wright, the town's finance director, take on the portion of the review Egger was to conduct.
"From the description of the relationship it does not seem like there's any type of direct economic benefit, but, for appearances sake, we have a finance director I'd suggest as an alternative," Heil said.
"I'm sure you can be completely impartial," said Mayor Rich Carroll. "But just given everything that's going on these days …"
The Avon town council meets again on Sept. 24.
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 and firstname.lastname@example.org