Greenbridge faces a foreclosure sale Sept. 22 for the second time this year, just months after its bank delayed a June 27 sale date.
Town officials say the developers’ poor relationship with their bank and the national economic downturn — not Chapel Hill’s business environment — caused Greenbridge’s troubles.
Greenbridge: The story so far
Here’s a look into the history of the development:2005: Planning for Greenbridge begins Feb. 2007: Unanimous vote grants a special use permit to Greenbridge Developments LLC. Sept. 2009: Fifty-eight of the development’s 98 residential units had been sold Jan. 2010: Greenbridge walls are vandalized with graffiti, causing $11,000 in damage Feb. 2010: An anonymous caller makes a bomb threat against Greenbridge Oct. 2010: Greenbridge opens March 2011: fewer than half of Greenbridge’s units are filled June 2011: Greenbridge sees its foreclosure, set for June 27, delayed indefinitely
The mixed-use condominium, retail and office complex at 601 W. Rosemary St. faced foreclosure after it failed to pay interest payments on loans from December 2010 to March 2011.
But Bank of America delayed the foreclosure to give developers time to find investors to cover their debt, which stood at $28.7 million in March.
Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton said in an email that Greenbridge’s new foreclosure sale date is Sept. 22.
She did not comment on whether another delay is possible or on where the development’s debt stands.
Chapel Hill economic development officer Dwight Bassett said the town hasn’t been involved in negotiations between Greenbridge partners, the bank and potential investors since June.
But he said he believes someone will buy the complex before the bank takes hold of it.
Bassett said two or three investors he could not name were looking at Greenbridge in June.
“Certainly anything is possible, but based on the interest that I have seen it would be my hope that they would find a buyer,” he said.
He said his understanding is that Greenbridge residents can continue living in the building regardless of what happens.
“The new owners should continue the leases,” he said.
Robert Dowling, executive director of Community Home Trust, also said a change in Greenbridge’s ownership shouldn’t impact residents.
Financial issues explained
Community Home Trust was involved in the sale of the 15 affordable units a town zoning ordinance required Greenbridge to include among its 97 total condominiums.
Dowling said affordable units, which cost around $100,000, filled within a few months. But he said fewer than half of the development’s luxury condominiums, which cost up to $1.25 million, are occupied.
“Not a lot of people could afford to pay that much,” he said.
Bassett said the economic downturn overlapped with Greenbridge’s opening, causing condominium sales to lag.
“The demand just wasn’t as great as it could have been.”
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said partly as a result of those slow sales, Greenbridge partners took more loans than they could repay. And after their bank relationship soured, units became even harder to sell.
He said the 140 West Franklin development is more self-financed and its developers have a better relationship with lenders — and units are selling well.
“It’s the different financing model, I’m sure,” he said.
Kleinschmidt said the challenges Greenbridge has faced don’t mean that the theory behind it — one of environmentally conscious, dense construction — was poorly received by Chapel Hill.
“Greenbridge is an example of higher residential density and increased opportunities that we want in our downtown,” he said.
“One must be careful not to assume too much out of their specific experience.”
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