Hilliard Northwest News

Davidson Road property

Judge orders Hickory Chase to auction block

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More than five years after a groundbreaking ceremony for Hickory Chase -- what was then heralded as a state-of-the-art retirement community -- a public sale of the land and buildings has been ordered.

In a March 13 ruling, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Holbrook ordered an auction of the real estate and personal property at 4383 Davidson Road.

The sale is scheduled at 10 a.m. June 21 at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, 345 S. High St.

Hilliard city officials have expressed their frustrations at being bystanders while financial institutions and attorneys meted out divergent interests stemming from the foreclosure on the Hickory Chase property.

"We are pleased that the process is finally moving toward a resolution," Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt said. "The court order for a judicial sale of the property might not satisfy everyone involved, but I think the judge has taken the right approach to untangle this massive weave of competing interests."

The judicial-ordered sale would provide the buyer with a free and clear title to the property, city officials said.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Hickory Chase was held April 10, 2008, at the 87-acre site at Davidson and Leap roads.

The first phase called for a 145-unit residential unit to open in spring 2009, with additional units to open as needed.

Hickory Chase executives then predicted all the phases would be finished in seven years, at which time the facility would employ 1,000 people, generate an annual payroll of $30 million and result in property-tax evaluation of about $100 million.

But by the following year, officials from Baltimore-based Erickson Communities, owners of Hickory Chase and 19 other facilities in 11 states, said the company's 20th development was postponed indefinitely because of the economy.

Construction was suspended May 11, 2009. The residential unit and clubhouse were about 80 percent complete.

Before the end of 2009, the 87-acre parcel had been foreclosed upon and city officials struggled to ensure that receivers would cut the grass and keep the property code compliant.

Meanwhile, the competing interests of multiple investors and other parties delayed a resolution.

Hilliard Economic Development Director David Meeks has said he estimates that past-due taxes and receiver fees add up to almost about $11 million. Back taxes, he said, are about $8 million and receivers have spent about $3 million since foreclosure to maintain the property.

The Franklin County auditor estimates the value of the land and buildings at $18 million, Meeks said, an amount that does not reflect the $11 million owed in back taxes and fees.

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