Port Angeles: Conference center developer walks away from project, blames lack of city cooperation

PORT ANGELES — Hotel/conference center developer Randal Jay Ehm bid an emotional goodbye to his project and Port Angeles as a whole Monday, ending three years of work on the waterfront mega-development.

“I have no choice but to withdraw from this project,” a visibly emotional Ehm told a Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience.

“It’s time to move on with my life. Thanks everyone.”

Ehm said because of personal losses he incurred, he also must dissolve Pier Group, the company set up to build the project, close his architecture business and sell his building in San Diego.

He based his decision to withdraw on a lack of private financing, the city’s refusal to consider a shoreline permit extension, the local economy and “insurmountable conditions” placed on the project by city officials.

Those conditions were owning the waterfront property on which the project was to be built before obtaining a building permit, and “proof of parking,” he said.

Project financing

Ehm said city Economic Development Director Tim Smith was quoted as saying he hadn’t seen any project financing beyond the city’s $2 million commitment.

But Ehm said he has put $500,000 of his own money into the project, and other project partners have contributed $300,000 and $400,000, he said.

“If the city’s economics change or if the city wants to reconsider my participation in the project then I would continue,” Ehm said, trying to maintain his composure.

“But it would have to be with someone else’s financing. I’m leaving Port Angeles to put my life back together.


He then walked out of the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant banquet room.

‘I’m free’

In an interview in the Red Lion Hotel parking lot, Ehm said:

“I’m free. My whole life has changed, thanks to Port Angeles. It’s a brand new start. There’s nothing left.”

Ehm said he called Smith before arriving in Port Angeles to say he was withdrawing from the project.

“I said, ‘We’re done, that’s it,”‘ Ehm said.

Smith said Ehm hung up the telephone so quickly from the airport in Seattle that he didn’t realize the developer would be making his withdrawal announcement at the luncheon.

Ehm proposed a full-service Marriott hotel with 171 rooms and enough banquet and conference space for 700 people on 3.8 waterfront acres at the corner of Oak and Front streets.

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