News

Transit center site has a checkered past ownership

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The piece of property in downtown Federal Way where the Silo store used to sit –– and a transit center is expected to stand some day –– has had a mixed history of ownership, some of it dubious.

On Jan. 20 this year, a man named Paul Meka, acting as a trustee for Federal Way Building LLC, conveyed the Silo property to Sound Transit. Federal Way Building LLC had purchased the property in 1997.

Soon, the two-acre parcel will become a transit center and parking garage, a proposal that has been met with bitter opposition and a series of appeals from neighboring residents and business owners who argue such a project would condemn downtown to perpetual gridlock.

According to officials with the Arizona Corporations Commission, Meka is in default of a 2002 order against him stemming from his involvement in investment fraud with a corporation called Corporate Fiducial Services.

In 2001, undercover investigators with the commission sent Meka, his company Corporate Fiducial Services and other corporations and individuals to Maricopa County Superior Court, accusing them of running an investment scheme described as a “ponzi,” or “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul” type of plan. They operated without licenses and sold unregistered securities, sometimes targeting senior citizens, according to the commission.

“They were offering an investment opportunity without the proper registration or proper disclosure,” commission spokeswoman Heather Murphy said.

To offer and sell securities to investors, agents must have education, background and registration, she added. Agents also must disclose the level of risk to prospective investors.

Murphy said Meka “hasn’t paid a penny” of a $5,000 fine he received for his participation in the scheme.

The old Silo site in Federal Way is a 90,000-square-foot piece of land on which used to sit a 25,000-square-foot building. The King County assessor valued it at $1.523 million in 1996. In 1998 it went up to $1.525 million, but the 2004 value is down to $1.277 million.

On Dec. 24, 1997, a man named Taylor Coleman, chief executive officer for the Castle adult retail stores, formed Federal Way Building LLC, which he registered in Phoenix.

Two days later, Federal Way Building LLC purchased the Silo site from a California company called Sunbelt Federal Way.

By February 1998, Coleman had decided to put a Castle superstore in about 18,000 feet of the Silo building. His plan, he said at the time, was to lease the remaining space to other tenants.

ut the Federal Way City Council the week before had passed a six-month moratorium on accepting applications from adult businesses. That moratorium would continue through February 1999, and the council ultimately would decide to ban adult businesses from the downtown core entirely.

During 1998, Sound Transit began holding open houses on the proposed transit center, parking garage and access lanes to Interstate 5 slated for Federal Way –– which, projections showed, would be a major transit point in south King County in coming years.

In February 1999, Sound Transit held a community outreach meeting on the proposed transit center. That March, Sound Transit’s executive advisory committee and project management team agreed on a new site for the project: South 316th and 23rd Avenue South, the Silo site where Coleman had wanted to put his adult retail emporium.

At the same time in 1998, the City Council began moving Bforward to acquire roadside strips of property as part of a long-term plan to widen and improve South 317th Street.

After an April 2000 executive session, council members directed the city manager to purchase several strips of property along 23rd Avenue South. In 2001, Public Works director Carey Roe offered Coleman in a letter $13,907 for an additional 845 feet of his property.

Michael Myers, of the Myers & Parker law offices in Seattle, representing Coleman, agreed.

Following the Arizona Corporations Commission’s Oct. 5, 2001 cease and desist order, the partners changed the names of their companies and continued operating the scheme, according to ACC records.

On Sept. 25, 2002, the commission filed another cease and desist order and filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court.

One of the companies, American National Mortgage Partners, filed for bankruptcy last March and, in July, was sent into receivership. Coleman, the Castle chief executive officer who owned Federal Way Building LLC, had received a loan from ANMP. He filed for bankruptcy the week before they did, Murphy said.

Despite the issues in Arizona, Federal Way city manager David Mosely said the city’s plan to improve South 317th Street pre-dated Sound Transit’s transit center and parking garage project and Federal Way Building LLC’s purchase of the Silo site.

Any of Corporate Fiducial’s or Federal Way Building’s past foibles wouldn’t have any affect on the city’s desire to purchase land from the property owner for a city project, Moseley said.

The South 317th project is finished and the city has moved on to Pacific Highway South work. Sound Transit has purchased the Silo site, and construction of the transit center is expected to begin next year.

And the bankruptcy cases involving the land’s former owners are still working their way through Maricopa County Superior Court, Murphy said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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