US ECONOMIC MELTDOWN - Economy, Credit Woes Foil Cities' Big Projects - by Jennifer S.Forsyth
A proposed $7 billion downtown Seattle project has become the latest major urban development to be scotched or delayed because of the credit crisis and a faltering economy. Seattle's Clise family is pulling a 13-acre property for sale for at least $600 million off the market, at least temporarily. The property was intended to be the catalyst for a project that would have totaled the square footage of as many as five Empire State Buildings, putting it on the scale of London's Canary Wharf or the former World Trade Center in New York. The Seattle project joins other projects in New York, Phoenix, Atlanta and Las Vegas that have been shelved, scaled back or beset by financial problems in recent months. Many city officials hoped they would provide jobs and economic activity that could help make up for a housing-market downturn that still hasn't reached bottom.Office construction plunged 28% in March across the U.S., compared with February, despite the start of the $304 million office portion of a mixed-use project in Boston called Russia Wharf, according to an April report by McGraw-Hill Construction, a trade publication. Included in the list of scaled back or delayed projects is a $14 billion grand plan to improve the area around Penn Station in Manhattan and build a new Madison Square Garden. Merrill Lynch & Co. backed out of plans to build an office tower at the site of the current Hotel Pennsylvania. Nearby, Cablevision Systems Corp., the owner of the Garden, decided against moving to a new site in the Farley Post Office across the street.