Downtown project's fate faces vote

Mar. 5—The Moscow Urban Renewal Agency will decide Thursday whether to end its agreement with two local business owners chosen to develop the corner of Sixth and Jackson streets.

The agency entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement in September with Carly Lilly and George Skandalos, who proposed building a mixed-use building on the vacant land owned by the MURA.

The multi-story building would house their Sangria restaurant, as well as retail, office and apartment spaces.

Cody Riddle, Moscow deputy city supervisor, said that agreement automatically ends in April if MURA does not extend it.

The project has been complicated by high costs of building on that patch of land. Lilly told the MURA in January that the soil is not stable enough to support the weight of a four- to five-story building that she and Skandalos envisioned. The companies they have partnered with to build the structure, Baker Construction and architecture firm Bernardo Wills, have warned them about the poor soil condition.

Excavating the soil and preparing the land to hold a tall building will cost a significant amount. Conversely, Lilly said a smaller building will not provide the revenue the owners need to make the building cost-effective.

According to MURA, the developers have not met the series of deadlines and benchmarks that are part of the agreement's schedule of performance. Riddle said their design of the building "has not evolved" since that last meeting in January.

Because of this, MURA will decide this week whether to end its current partnership with Skandalos and Lilly. This would allow the agency to seek other developers if it chooses.

"We're free to pursue other options at that point," Riddle said.

This would mark the second time Lilly and Skandalos have attempted to develop the Sixth and Jackson lot without success. They were previously selected to develop the land in 2015. Another local developer chosen by MURA, Rusty Olps, also could not get the project off the ground, and MURA ended its agreement with him in early 2023.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.