Originally published October 22, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Page modified October 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Sunday Buzz

A "Crystal" centerpiece for Federal Way?

Federal Way's council tentatively agreed to sell a chunk of its sprawling center to a Massachusetts company that proposes an eye-catching, 15-building complex but has never developed anything of such magnitude before.

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Building a real downtown for Federal Way, Take Three.

This past week the South King County city's council tentatively agreed to sell a chunk of its sprawling center to a Massachusetts company that has proposed an eye-catching, 15-building complex on the site.

Renderings suggest parts of the project could look like they were designed by Gumby.

Developer ARCADD calls its proposal "Crystal Way." Federal Way city officials hope it can succeed where two other ambitious redevelopment projects failed.

"It's a tougher development environment than it was five years ago," says city spokesman Chris Carrel, "but we're certainly positive and hopeful."

The city bought the vacant 4-acre property in early 2007, thinking redevelopment of the site would serve as a catalyst for transforming Federal Way's auto-oriented center into a more compact, higher-density, identifiable downtown.

First the city agreed to sell the property to a Canadian firm for a four-tower complex. But that developer couldn't get financing.

Then city officials worked out a deal with a company led by two Korean-American businessmen who wanted to build three high-rises, the tallest 45 stories. That arrangement, too, collapsed earlier this year.

So Federal Way solicited new proposals from developers this spring. Three responded, and the city picked ARCADD in July.

Architect Hisham Ashkouri, the firm's president, says all 15 buildings would share a four-story glass base with shops, restaurants, movie theaters and an exhibition hall.

At the complex's center would rise five undulating towers, each about 20 stories, containing office and high-end residential space.

Around the periphery: 10 more buildings, mostly residential, each about 10 stories tall.

The 900,000-square-foot project would cost about $300 million, Ashkouri says. He says he's already lined up financing from a "U.S.-based investment group" he declined to identify.

He acknowledges ARCADD hasn't developed anything of this magnitude before, but says he's been involved as an architect in delivering other big projects.

"It's a new venture for us, but I can tell you I know what it takes to get a job like this done."

Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest still must negotiate a sale agreement, including a price.

If all goes according to plan — and Federal Way city officials sincerely hope it does this time — ARCADD will take title to the property Jan. 6.

— Eric Pryne,

Chinese finance,

Estonian law

Here's further evidence that investor money these days sloshes across the globe in every direction.

Seattle-based HQ Sustainable Maritime, which raises fish and makes health products in China, fell under suspicion last spring when its auditor and audit-committee chair resigned after questioning its finances. Naturally it's being sued by investors who lost millions because, they allege, the company and its officers "materially overstated HQS's sales, revenue and net income" to raise the value of its Amex-traded stock.

The surprise is that the biggest shareholder plaintiff is a fund in... Estonia.

Being the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit can mean extra compensation for the shareholder and the law firm representing it. The role typically goes to the plaintiff claiming the largest loss, in this case Trigon Emerging Agri-Sector Fund in Tallinn, Estonia's capital, which claims losses of $1.48 million on its HQ Sustainable shares.

Five other plaintiffs sought the lead position, too. Seattle law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, representing an investor named Carl Schatz, sought to edge out Trigon and its attorneys, in part with some arguments about Estonian law.

It even produced a declaration from "the highest ranked business law firm in the Baltics" asserting that because a class-action award in the U.S. wouldn't be recognized under Estonian law, nothing would prevent Trigon from going after HQ Sustainable again in its homeland.

But U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik rejected all such arguments and put Trigon in the lead plaintiff's chair, so lawyers for the Estonians (Seattle's Keller Rohrback and New York-based Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll) will be leading the charge against executives of the Chinese company.

— Rami Grunbaum

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