November 13, 2008 in Business

Project manager leaves Kendall Yards

Tom Reese pursuing other job options, but he’s optimistic about the development’s progress
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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The manager quarterbacking Spokane’s largest development project, Kendall Yards, has left to look for a different job.

Former project manager Tom Reese said his work with Kendall Yards ended Oct. 31. He hopes to land a job working on development projects in the private or government sectors, he said.

Reese joined the massive – and ambitious – project about three years ago. Prior to joining up with Kendall Yards’ main developer, Marshall Chesrown, Reese worked as economic development adviser for the city of Spokane.

His departure does not signal that the massive project, whose original scope would have cost about $1 billion, is in financial trouble, Reese said. The plan for the project is to bring together residential and commercial tenants and transform the 78 acres along the north shore of the Spokane River into a bustling mecca of shops and quality housing.

Reese said he cannot comment on the status of Kendall Yards. “I no longer work there and it’s not my place to talk about it anymore,” he said.

Chesrown did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

City and county officials eagerly support Chesrown’s project, seeing it as a potentially vibrant section of the community and a big source of additional tax revenue.

Gaining the city’s approval of the Kendall Yards master plan and then establishing a tax increment financing district for the property were two tasks Reese said took considerable effort. In addition, environmental cleanup and location of underground power lines are done, making the land nearly ready for construction, he said.

Using the football analogy, Reese said whoever takes over as project manager will find the full project is in the “third quarter,” meaning it’s more than halfway to rollout and initial construction of the first buildings.

The delay on Chesrown’s part in producing a new timeline for launching the build-out of Kendall Yards reflects the impact of the economy on a complex and costly endeavor, Reese said.

“Yes, the national economy is playing a role in things,” he added. “But there’s still great optimism among the project team.”

Asked if the project’s delays are a reason for his departure, Reese said, “No, not at all. There is a huge amount of work still to be done, and I’m sure that it is in good hands.”

He noted that the original master plan, made public almost two years ago, was a “best case scenario” blueprint for what the full project might become. The original plan mapped out a first phase costing about $300 million. Today the estimate for that phase is $170 million.

As the national economic climate turned chilly, it was necessary for Chesrown to modify and refine the project, Reese added. “That’s the nature of the business.”

Reese said he’s looking at several options for his next job, including creating his own consulting business.

“I love the work I do. I would love to work on big, bold ideas and on projects that help make Spokane a fantastic place to live,” he said.


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