Corporation undertakes effort to market K2 property on Vashon

K2 Sports has begun actively marketing its 180,000-square-foot former manufacturing site on Vashon now that a lawsuit over its zoning change from industrial to commercial has ended in K2's favor.

Two entities are in conversation with K2 Sports about purchasing the property, according to Robert Marcovitch, president of K2 Sports. And the company's real estate broker, Art Wahl of CB Richard Ellis in Seattle, plans to have it listed on Internet sites that have an international reach within weeks.

"The frank reality is that the economy is turning around, and I believe that someone will own this property sooner or later," Marcovitch said.

The 18-acre parcel is listed at $3 million.

"It's a great location. It's a great property. We think we have it priced properly," he added.

Wahl had been holding back on marketing the site until a lawsuit over its zoning status had been resolved. Last June, Islander Tom Bangasser sued K2, King County, the Island's community council and other entities over the county's decision to rezone the property — a move that some contended was made without sufficient notice to the Vashon community.

In October, King County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell dismissed Bangasser's suit. A month later, he denied Bangasser's motion that the case be reconsidered. The 30-day window for an appeal has since closed.

Bangasser could not be reached for comment.

Marcovitch said the lawsuit proved "a huge distraction" that cost K2 a lot of money. He also said it undermined an effort by Dick Sontgerath and Truman O'Brien to develop the site into K2 Commons, a quasi-community center that the two men hoped would house the Vashon Health Center, an athletic club, office space, a restaurant, a hotel and other facilities.

The lawsuit, Marcovitch said, scared away some of K2 Commons' investors, backers Sontgerath and O'Brien needed to purchase the property and begin developing it.

"There were real people with real money who frankly felt, 'Oh boy, were in for some protracted battle with local citizens.' ... Nobody wants to deal with that," Marcovitch said.

According to Sontgerath, K2 Commons remains viable, and he and O'Brien are still working on the development. "Truman and I are continuing to talk to K2 to see if we can make a mutually agreeable deal," he said, declining to elaborate.

Marcovitch and Wahl concurred, saying they too believe Sontgerath and O'Brien's redevelopment plans remain a possibility. But the dispute over the property's rezone was not the only issue that undermined the effort, they noted. The two developers also lost much-needed upfront cash when the King County Library System decided not to purchase a corner of the property for a new library branch, Wahl said.

"The library was the cash cow in the deal," he said. KCLS's decision to not move the Vashon branch to K2, he added, "made their job much more difficult; it did not make it impossible."

Even so, Marcovitch said, he can no longer sit on a property that is costing K2 "six figures" a year to keep it secure while it stands empty. Other corporate owners might have put razor wire around the property and walked away, he added. He has chosen not to do that, in part because it would not reflect well on K2 and its long history on the Island. At the same time, he said, he and Wahl need to work hard to try to get the building sold.

"It's not that I'm impatient at this point. But I do need to get this done. I'm not in the real estate business," Marcovitch said.

K2 Sports was recently purchased by the Jarden Corp. Asked if K2's corporate parent is putting pressure on Marcovitch to find a buyer soon, he said it was not. But, he added, "I feel pressure from my fiduciary responsibility to turn this asset into cash."

In a lengthy interview, Marcovitch at times expressed frustration with Vashon, a community that he said surprised him with its unhappiness about both the rezone and K2 Commons.

"We really wanted to see the right thing happen," Marcovitch said, adding that he was "elated" when Sontgerath came forward with his ideas for the structure.

"Unfortunately, there were some who felt that due process had not taken place, and we've had two years of very expensive legal wrangling," he said.

"We certainly anticipated there would be local concerns. ... I did not anticipate it would be as protracted an exercise as it was," he added.

As the company looks for another buyer, Marcovitch said, he's open "to every possibility." At the same time, he added, "We want to do something that will have a positive glow on the K2 history and brand. That's first and foremost in my mind."

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