"Bulk Sale" Planned for Water's Edge, Vacant Land
City Hall Could Play a Role in Sale
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - Following the bankruptcy of Opus South and the foreclosure sale of the Water's Edge property to a consortium of banks including Wachovia, Regions and Bank of America, the future of the downtown condominium tower has become a bit clearer.
Speculation had been rife on the streets of downtown Clearwater. Would the banks engage in the sales of individual condominium units? If so, at what price? Or would they try to sell the parcel to a developer who would complete the interior finishing and resell remaining unsold units?
Wachovia broke their silence during last week's meeting of the Downtown Development Board. Ironically, the meeting was held in a conference room at the Water's Edge Tower.
Nick Sartori, a Vice President for Wachovia's Special Situations Group, told the board that Wachovia had primary interest in the foreclosed condo tower, with the other banks having smaller shares.
Having owned the property for only 6 weeks, Sartori said that the bank's plans were not yet complete, but they have continued to maintain and preserve their interest in the property. Excluding the 10 units that had been previously sold, the consortium retains interest in the 146 unsold units plus all the street-level retail space.
"Certainly as a bank, we're not builders; we're not developers. We could probably call ourselves interim owners and managers today. We don't want to be a builder or developer, but we certainly want to maximize and recover our investment, and that's what we're set out to do," said Sartori.
While Wachovia may resell individual units if the circumstances are right, the bank is looking primarily to "bulk sell" the asset according to Sartori.
Wachovia's investment also includes the vacant parcel of land across Pierce Street from City Hall. That lot is the former home of the Calvary Baptist Church education building, which was demolished by Opus to make room for construction equipment and storage of building materials for the tower.
Sartori said that Wachovia wants to sell that parcel in a package with the condo tower. "We want to give the new owner/developer the opportunity to continue on with that land," he said.
While Sartori claimed that there is a high level of interest in interest in both properties as a package, he also said that unsolicited proposals have been received on the tower and vacant land individually. According to an e-mail by City Manager Bill Horne dated December 2nd, one of the bidders on the vacant land was the Church of Scientology.
But according to an e-mail from the city's Downtown Manager Courtney Orr to Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin last Friday, the bank is not entertaining such offers. "They have and will continue to deny any offer that excludes the tower (Water's Edge)," she wrote.
"Their aim is to sell both in one transaction to allow the new owner the option to continue with phase II on the vacant land. Should they find a highly suitable purchaser that only is interested in the tower they will market the vacant property alone as a last resort."
When Opus originally acquired the Water's Edge property from Calvary Baptist Church, the city and Opus talked of including the City Hall property as part of the deal, but Opus decided to begin development with the church parcels alone.
During Sartori's teleconference with the DDB last week, Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin made it clear that the City Hall property could reenter the picture if Wachovia found an interested buyer. "I know you're aware that there had been a lot of discussion about how those two parcels in combination with the City Hall parcel could possibly add value to both the city's interests and the bank's, so as this proceeds, we'd like to keep in contact with you and see how this plays out," Irwin said, "We'd like to add value to the parcels, and not have the parcels sold-off prematurely when we could maybe do something that would move forward everybody's interest."
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