Fletcher leaves Progress Partners

Published 1:48 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

By Staff
Friedman named managing partner
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
After being the point man for Moss Landing and other projects for Progress Partners, LLC, Fred Fletcher Jr. is no longer with the Washington-based development entity.
Because of administrative and organizational changes within the company, Fletcher has “stepped down” from his role as manager, according to a press release issued by Progress Partners. Fletcher has been replaced by Stanley Friedman of Washington.
Attempts to interview Fletcher were unsuccessful.
The Progress Partners Web site lists Friedman as managing partner. The other partners include Max Gray, Robert G. Griffin, Milton Kirkland, H. Kel Landis III and James Williamson.
Along with Moss Landing, Progress Partners’ development projects include The George — Little Inn at Washington and the Progress Building.
Michael Overton, also a Washington resident, has assumed the role of project/operational manager. He oversees daily operations of the development and sale of Moss Landing properties and the future development of The George — Little Inn at Washington project.
Friedman, in an interview last week, said Progress Partners decided it needed to expedite Moss Landing and The George — Little Inn at Washington.
Friedman said the company should have been “more aggressive” in its previous efforts to move the Moss Landing project along. Friedman said Progress Partners believes Overton will help do just that.
Since 2004, Overton has been involved primarily with premium home construction with his own company in Greenville. Overton, a licensed general contractor and real-estate broker, once worked for his family’s business, Overton Watersports and Marine, as vice president of operations. He was responsible for most major aspects of the company’s day-to-day operations.
Although site work remains to be done for the Moss Landing project, Friedman said, the company hopes to “go vertical” by March 31. That means buildings going up. Once those buildings start going up, Friedman expects prospective buyers’ interest in the project to either become renewed or be kindled for the first time.
Friedman said Progress Partners believes the Moss Landing project will recover from the soft-market condition and sales of residential units will experience an upswing.
Washington Mayor Pro Tempore Darwin Woolard has hopes the changes made by Progress Partners will soon lead to advances with Moss Landing and The George — Little Inn at Washington.
Woolard has particular concerns about The George — Little Inn at Washington. Unless that project meets specific criteria by June 30, there’s a possibility the $750,000 component of the $1 million grant will have to be returned to the state. Woolard said losing that money would be a blow to the city’s efforts to revitalize its downtown.
Woolard said a successful Moss Landing and The George — Little Inn at Washington would bode well for the city. Getting those projects to construction phases would restore confidence in other projects aimed at improving the city’s economy and revitalizing downtown, Woolard said.
Moss Landing and The George — Little Inn at Washington have had their share of delays.
Fletcher was the operating manager for Moss Property Partners when it purchased the former Moss planing mill property from the City of Washington for $1.565 million. Original plans called for building a hotel and conference center on most of the former Moss property. Those plans changed, with residential use of the property becoming the primary development goal.
The property was purchased in May 2003. It wasn’t until Sept. 19, 2006, when ground was broken for a project on the property — Moss Landing. The residential project is expected to be built in four phases during a two-year period.
In February 2005, Washington was notified it had been awarded a $1 million grant to help renovate the historic downtown Hotel Louise. That project called for the city to lend $750,000 to Progress Partners to renovate the Hotel Louise building. The project’s original plans called for a spa and restaurant to be housed in the renovated structure.
In October 2005, Fletcher appeared before the Washington City Council to provide an update on The George project. At that time, Fletcher said Progress Partners was waiting on approvals from the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office before it could proceed with the project. The agencies’ approvals are required before the project can receive tax credits. Fletcher said construction drawings and subsequent steps to begin construction on the project couldn’t begin until the two agencies approved project plans.
Fletcher said then the State Historic Preservation Office was “waffling” when it came to its review of the plans. He said then that indecision was a “nightmare” that had Progress Partners “trying to figure out what we can build.”
Fletcher said then the “hurdle is in Raleigh.”
If approvals were granted immediately, Progress Partners could be ready to seek construction bids within 90 days, Fletcher told the council then.
Then-council members Mark Hamblin and Judy Meier Jennette and Mayor Mickey Gahagan quickly indicated they would contact state and federal officials to see if they could find ways to move the project along. The council also said it wanted the city to use its political powers to expedite the approval process.
Almost a year later, Fletcher appeared before the council, informing its members that the plan for penthouse condominiums on top of the former Hotel Louise building had been abandoned, requiring Progress Partners to return to the state for approval of changes made to The George project.
Fletcher said then he hoped demolition work for the George project would begin in December 2006. It did not.
At that October 2006 meeting, Councilman Archie Jennings expressed concern with the project, noting the end of the grant period was less than 60 days away. If the project was not under way by then, the state could demand its grant be returned. Later, city officials learned the state had extended the deadline for the project to begin until June 30, 2007.
Along with a renewed effort to market Moss Landing, Progress Partners continues to seek new strategies for development of The George — Little Inn at Washington project.