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TACOMA, WA-Nearon Enterprises of Danville, CA beat out Williams & Dame of Portland, OR for the right to develop a hotel and residential development along the west side of the Foss Waterway in Downtown Tacoma.

The Foss Waterway Development Authority Board of Directors voted 4-to-2 in favor of Nearon’s $70 million proposal. Don Meyer, executive director of the development authority, tells GlobeSt.com that while the Williams & Dame $114-million proposal was better designed in many ways and included a superior quality of construction, Nearon’s willingness to pay cash for both properties up front and develop the projects simultaneously won it the assignment.

Essentially, Meyers said the board voted for the terms they liked knowing the design could be changed as Nearon works through the approval process. “When Nearon indicated they were willing to look at design changes, that gave us the window to say ‘if you’re willing to modify, we’re willing to go forward,’” says Meyers. “The project could end up more expensive than proposed.”

Williams & Dame, in partnership with Portland-based Gerding/Edlen Development Co., proposed 372 condominiums, a 54-room boutique and 24,592 sf of retail space in multiple phases. The housing units were to be spread among four residential buildings separated by garden corridors that would preserve views of the waterway from Downtown. The middle corridor would have provided the general public street-level access to the Foss Esplanade.

Instead, Nearon, in partnership with Tacoma-based Waterway Properties, will build 200 condominium units in a single building, a 124-room boutique hotel and 32,962 sf of retail space all in one phase. Public access to the waterfront will be provided by a central courtyard between the hotel and the condominium building.

One of the design issues is that the central courtyard, as currently planned, would be the main access for both pedestrians getting to the esplanade and vehicles getting to the hotel. “Now that we’ve been selected, we are more than willing to work out any design problems,” Nearon Spokesman Mark Ossola tells GlobeSt.com.

The development site is between the 15th Street Bridge and the Thea’s Landing condominium and apartment development. The project is expected to break ground later this year and be completed in May 2005.

Meyers says what he preferred in the Nearon proposal was the larger size of the hotel and the fact that the residential did not occupy both parcels as it did in the Williams & Dame proposal. “Dedicating a single site to the hotel and providing related support services (a day spa) was very appealing to us,” says Meyers. “We had questions about whether the smaller hotel would be viable.”

Scott Surdyke, the man hired by William & Dame to win them the assignment, tells GlobeSt.com he’s frustrated that a design contest came down to everything but design. “We went through an eight month design process and it came down to who will pay the most money up front,” says Surdyke. “We’re very surprised and very disappointed.”

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