Helicopters could roost on Bellevue Place roof
Helicopters swooping onto the roofs of downtown Bellevue's office towers? Perhaps it's another sign the Eastside city really has hit the...
Helicopters swooping onto the roofs of downtown Bellevue's office towers? Perhaps it's another sign the Eastside city really has hit the big time.
Kemper Development is asking Bellevue city officials for a permit to operate what it calls a "helistop" atop its 19-story Bank of America Building at Bellevue Place, on Northeast 8th Street near Bellevue Way.
There's nothing like it in downtown Bellevue, but it won't be a true heliport, says Kemper Vice President Jim Hill — just a private landing pad, designed to accommodate helicopters that carry no more than five passengers. Choppers won't be maintained or fueled there, he adds.
The pad's been in place for 20 years. Kemper installed it when it built the tower in 1988.
The Freeman family, which controls Kemper and built Bellevue Place, Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, has a longstanding interest in helicopters, Hill says, and it figured the pad might be useful someday.
It's been used twice, he says, and the time seems right to prepare for more frequent use. Kemper is seeking a permit to allow up to three takeoffs and three landings daily, and up to 200 of each per year.
Why gear up for regular operations now? Because, with traffic getting worse, the helistop will provide another way to get in and out of downtown Bellevue for at least a few people, Hill says. Plus it's an amenity that could appeal to some prospective office tenants.
Business people with offices in downtown Bellevue could use the helistop, Hill says. So could residents of new downtown condos.
But, "quite frankly, we don't know what to expect," he confesses.
Kemper's plan will be discussed at a public meeting at Bellevue City Hall at 6 p.m. Feb. 18.
The development firm already has commissioned a noise study, which suggests that to people on the street below, helicopters landing on the tower's roof wouldn't sound any louder than a passing bus.
— Eric Pryne
turns up heat
on Cowlitz Bancorp
Eighteen months may be a decade in dog years, but it's an eternity in banker years.
So it was definitely a different era when Bellevue developer Jeffrey Gow tried to buy Cowlitz Bancorp in July 2007. Cowlitz's board rejected his $15-per-share offer as "significantly inadequate." The stock now trades below $6.
Subsequent rebuffs seem to have only intensified Gow's interest, though. The CEO of homebuilder Polygon Northwest has continued building his stake, and this past week reported his investment firm owns 25.8 percent.
He's now trying to get himself and four associates on the ballot to replace most of the little banking company's directors.
That would be a step to finally winning control of the Longview-based company, which runs five Bay Bank branches in Seattle, Bellevue and the Portland area as well as four branches of its namesake Cowlitz Bank.
Steve Wasson, a former banker and part of Gow's investor group, says they've had no response from the Cowlitz board to repeated letters since November.
"We're patiently waiting" for the annual stockholder meeting this spring, he says. "I can't believe the other shareholders are happy with the way the board has handled this."
Cowlitz CEO Richard Fitzpatrick says hostile efforts to gain control of a community bank are extremely rare, "and there's a reason for that." Changing management could drive away both customers and employees, he says.
He also challenges the credentials of the Gow group: "Other than the fact they say they could run it better, there's no track record of that."
Cowlitz reported a profitable fourth quarter, unlike many local banks. But it also lost $8.1 million last year and set aside $17.6 million for future credit losses.
Wasson says Cowlitz hasn't capitalized on its Bay Bank branches in the big urban markets, but says it's too early to suggest how his group would change the bank's operations if it wins the board seats.
Meanwhile, he adds, his group has the necessary regulatory OK to accumulate a 30 percent stake in Cowlitz, "which we are in the process of doing."
— Rami Grunbaum
the math for bigger
Top executives and selected employees at Spirit AeroSystems — formed in 2005 from Boeing's Wichita operations — are fortunate to have a sympathetic board of directors.
The eight-week Machinists' strike at Boeing last fall wreaked havoc with Spirit's financial results and left many Spirit employees on extended furloughs. But Spirit disclosed this week that its board adjusted the annual incentive awards for management and some other employees "to mitigate the impact."
Each got 62 percent more than the company's short-term incentive plan dictated based on Spirit's actual results. President and CEO Jeffrey Turner, for instance, reaped a $853,416 bonus instead of $526,800. For the group, it meant $2.51 million instead of $1.55 million, payable in cash and company stock.
The adjustment also applies to about 2,200 others in the incentive plan — salaried employees and managers, as well as one small group of unionized electrical workers. But the remaining 10,000-plus union workers are under contracts with a separate profit-sharing formula "that did not trigger a payout for 2008," says a Spirit spokesman.
Spirit explained in a regulatory filing that the incentives were based on meeting targets for cash flow and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). Those numbers were on a strong roll until the Boeing strike, "which was beyond the control of Spirit's management, [and] had a significant negative impact on EBIT."
Had the company's performance for the first eight months of 2008 continued through year-end, "plan participants were on target to earn awards equal to approximately 121 percent of pre-established target levels," the filing said.
Of course that didn't happen. But by taking a weighted average — eight months at 121 percent, and 4 months at zero percent — the board says it reached a final award level of 81 percent.
Stockholders haven't been similarly rewarded. Spirit's shares, like Boeing's, have fallen about 40 percent in the past six months.
Other pieces of the Spirit executive team's compensation packages won't be reported until the proxy statement later this year, the company said.
— Rami Grunbaum
Comments? Send them to Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@-
seattletimes.com or 206-464-8541
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