Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
The building on the corner of Trousdale and Ogden drives has gone unfinished for a number of years.
Burlingame residents gathered Wednesday night looking for answers as to why a building at the corner of Trousdale and Ogden drives has remained unfinished for so many years.
The community members met at the Burlingame School District Offices, across the street from the project, with representatives from Sunrise Senior Living who flew in from the East Coast to deliver an update at the city’s request.
The four-story, 79-unit project at 1818 Trousdale Drive was originally approved by the Planning Commission in 2006, but ran into bumps due to the 2008 economic downturn, the company said.
At the meeting, Andy Coelho, senior vice president of facilities and construction for Sunrise expressed his disappointment with the project. He said he believes an opening could be as soon as fall 2014. Sunrise is hoping to get financing for the project in the next month or so.
“I’m so upset that we had to pause this project,” Coelho said. “I love to build and it really hurt to go against what I like to do, but I’m really sorry. I don’t have to look at it like you do every day. I’m excited for this project and the good news is that there is forward progress.”
Councilwoman Terry Nagel said the site has become unsightly.
“We’ve given them plenty of notice and it’s time they clean up their act,” Nagel said. “They financially didn’t have incentive to do anything with the project. The council is really ready to do something about this. The worst thing you want is vandals, people trying to nest there, garage being dumped there and it’s rusting. The covers we made them put up are starting to fall down.”
Many audience members expressed disappointment and anger with what some consider to be an eyesore to the community, a neglected project.
Back in May 2013, the company received a one-year building permit extension from the city, which expires on May 28, 2014. The next step seems to be receiving financing from a lender to proceed with the project.
As approved by the Planning Commission, the facility was to be operated by Sunrise. A building permit for the project was issued in mid-2007 and the permit had an initial expiration date of May 28, 2010.
The city gave the extension, contingent on certain commitments that Sunrise had to make. Progress reports, updates to the city, inspections of the unfinished structure and demonstration of progress toward completion of the project by the new building permit deadline were some of the stipulations.
Coelho noted that the company fully plans to meet these conditions. Coelho said Sunrise recently had structural engineer inspect the structure and found the building to be sound, only requiring minor repairs such as straightening the fence and removing weeds from the lot Sunrise leases.
Jerry Liang, vice president of corporate finance of Sunrise Living said during the financial crisis, the company went through some very dark times.
“We had rounds of layoffs and were running out of cash,” Liang said. “We focused on taking care of residents and employees in communities we already had. We worked really hard and finally stabilized relatively recently. We were sold in January 2013 and since then there’s been change and transition.”
Health Care REIT, an Ohio-based health-care property owner, bought Sunrise in an all-cash deal worth $845 million. Sunrise is run out of McLean, Va. and currently employees around 29,000 people and serves almost 30,000 seniors in nearly 300 housing communities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Liang said Sunrise has been working with mortgage broker and that the project is a high priority project since the building is already in place.
Councilman Jerry Deal attended the gathering Wednesday night.
“I was a very, very positive meeting,” Deal said. “They said the right things and were contrite in the way they should have been. It was one of those situations that if we denied extension of the permit it would be a worse situation. We’re taking them on their word now, and if not, the hammer comes down.”
Ellen Berkowitz, an attorney working with Sunrise, said if the company can’t get financing, it will work with the property owner to discuss next steps.
Burlingame Community Development Director Bill Meeker said if Sunrise fails to begin construction by the May deadline, the city will weigh legal options then, but the priority at the moment is to work with Sunrise to begin the construction before next May.
The council will also discuss the project at their Sept. 3 meeting.
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