Hilliard Northwest News

Hickory Chase property

Lack of minimum reserve bid prompts second auction

A reappraisal of the site and scheduling is expected within five to six weeks

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There were no takers at an initial public auction Friday, June 28, for an 87-acre site on Davidson Road heralded as a state-of-the-art retirement campus at a groundbreaking more than five years ago.

The minimum reserve bid of $9,990,000, essentially two-thirds of the appraised value of $15 million for the parcel and the building, was not met.

A conference was held Monday, July 1, before Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Michael Holbrook to determine the next step in finding a new owner for the parcel. The building has been boarded up since a foreclosure in 2009.

"The conference was to determine what's next and that will be to have it reappraised," said Rich Kruse, president of Gryphon Asset Management, charged with overseeing the transfer of ownership of the property.

Appraisers from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office are expected to reappraise the property.

It is likely, Kruse said, that the minimum bid will be lowered for a second public auction.

Two-thirds of the appraised value is the standard reserved bid for property that has been foreclosed, Kruse said.

"But if that bid isn't met, we have to look at what the market will bear (and) the first auction showed there was not any interest at 9.99 (million dollars)," Kruse said.

The June 28 auction did result in two other bids.

Key Bank bid $800,000 for an undeveloped 7.7-acre adjacent parcel, separate from the 87-acres, containing completed structures. Key Bank also bid $20,000 for engineering plans and specifications.

Kruse said bids for architectural rendering and blueprints were "unusual" but such services were among the real property upon which liens were placed when the project went into foreclosure.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held April 10, 2008, at the 87-acre site for a development to be named Hickory Chase, at 4383 Davidson Road. 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 had 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 have a property tax evaluation of about $100 million.

At the 2008 groundbreaking, Hilliard Mayor Don Schonhardt called Hickory Chase "a victory for senior citizens" and lauded the new jobs and income tax revenue it was expected to generate.

By the following year, officials from Baltimore-based Erickson Communities, owners of Hickory Chase and 19 other facilities in 11 states, were explaining that the company's 20th development would be postponed indefinitely because of the economy, which arguably began its freefall about the same year Erickson obtained additional loans to expand its holdings of upscale retirement communities.

"This unprecedented economic climate is presenting us all with significant challenges," Mel Tansill, a spokesman for the Baltimore-based company, said in May 2009.

"We are currently experiencing a delay in construction related to a financing issue that could delay the opening of Hickory Chase. We hope that we can resolve this issue soon, but for now we can't project an opening date."

Construction was suspended May 11, 2009. The lone residential unit and a clubhouse were about 80 percent complete and no further work was done.

Hilliard city officials, who have voiced frustrations about being bystanders while multiple financial institutions and attorneys meted out divergent interests stemming from the development's foreclosure, are optimistic an end is at hand.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Hilliard Development Director David Meeks said, adding that the city expected at least two, and possibly three auction dates might be required to achieve a minimum reserve bid.

"We sort of expected (a second auction date) but we are glad to see these auctions are happening and think it will be sold soon," Meeks said. "We're looking forward to working with the new owners."

Kruse said he expects another auction for the 87-acre parcel and structures will be scheduled in five to six weeks.

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