Gold Hill Mesa developer hoping to buy back land

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Gold Hill Mesa Partners, the ownership group behind a 216-acre residential development on the city’s Westside, is waiting to hear from the U.S. bankruptcy court if it can buy back 46 single-family and multi-family lots it sold to John Laing Homes in 2007.

Laing declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2009, closing dozens of projects in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

Gold Hill Mesa was originally planned as a two-phase project with 800 or more units.

Prior to its bankruptcy, Laing held options on dozens of lots and was Gold Hill’s only builder.

“They (John Laing Homes) almost brought us to a halt when they just stopped. We were fortunate to be able to refinance our debt and find a new builder — Challenger Homes — fairly quickly,” said Gold Hill Mesa President Bob Willard.

The bankruptcy court solicited 129 prospective buyers for the land, but as of last Friday, only four had expressed interest in buying any of the company’s Denver and Colorado Springs holdings. Gold Hill was one of them.

The company is currently awaiting word from the bankruptcy trustee’s office on whether its bid has been accepted.

Willard views the buy-back as key to his residential and commercial masterplan.

“We put in a viable offer. We’re intent on the neighborhood retaining its quality and value,” he said.

Once back in the Gold Hill portfolio, the lots can be sold either to the company’s current builders or to new companies interested in becoming part of the community

Some of the original Laing lots are vacant or left with abandoned concrete foundations. Other pre-sold or “spec” homes that Laing built appear complete, but still have work to finish inside.

That’s been especially problematic for a community that promotes residential clustering, large common areas and traditional neighborhood features such as front porches, garages off alleys behind the homes, “granny units” over the garage and 10-foot “built to” boundaries rather than traditional setbacks.

So far, Willard and his partner Robert Hadley of Seattle, say they’re pleased with the community’s financial and marketing rebound, capped by this year’s designation as a major Parade of Homes site.

The community now boasts two single-family builders and one townhome builder. Challenger Homes and Creekstone Homes build homes ranging from $200,000 to more than $400,000. J.M Weston Homes builds townhomes starting in the high $100,000s.

Creekstone President Rhonda McDonald said so far the site has proven to be a good one for her new-home product.

And J.M. Weston, a newcomer to the community this year, has already sold its initial nine townhomes and needs more lots, said Gold Hill Mesa vice president Stephanie Edwards.

“I think it’s a combination of a great location and our price point. We expect to add another builder soon,” she said.

“We’ve had our challenges, but we keep delivering an exciting concept and the value people want.”

Property manager adds more retail to portfolio

The Rosenbaum and Dean Cos. have chosen Griffis Blessing Inc. to provide property management for its three shopping centers: Market at Chapel Hills East, Market at Chapel Hills West and Woodmen Commons Shopping Center.

Suzan Parra, assisted by Taryn Nelson, will manage the centers.

Key tenants include Best Buy, Whole Foods, 24 Hour Fitness, Sports Authority, Petsmart, Sam’s Club, Bed Bath and Beyond, Office Depot, Marshalls, Jared Jewelers and Lazy Boy.

Griffis/Blessing currently manages 6 million square feet of commercial and multifamily property throughout Colorado.

Downtown bank building enters foreclosure

This week, the former Chase Bank building on the northwest corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street entered the first phase of the foreclosure process.

El Paso County Public Trustee Tom Mowle reported that a notice of election of demand had been filed against the property which is owned by NNN Pikes Peak & Tejon. The five-story building, which had been rebuilt in 1988, was purchased in 1999 by the Santa Ana, Calif., investment group for $8.73 million.  Foreclosure records show that the owners owe approximately $8 million to the property’s lender, Bank of America.

The long-time bank site had fallen victim to deferred maintenance. Just last year its primary tenant, Chase Bank, vacated and moved to a new headquarters on North Tejon, leaving the 100,000-square-foot structure about half full.

Grubb & Ellis Quantum Commercial Group listing brokers Andy Oyler and Mary Frances Cowan said leasing activity is up. “About 44,000 square feet are currently vacant,” Oyler said, adding that’s the largest contiguous vacant square footage in the center business district.

“That’s a real selling point in the downtown market,” he said.

Becky Hurley can be reached at (719) 329-5235 or at becky.hurley@csbj.com. Friend her on Facebook.