Investors purchase Greenbridge debt

BofA unloads Chapel Hill building

mschultz@newsobserver.comOctober 8, 2011 

— Bank of America has sold the debt on the 10-story Greenbridge condominium property in downtown Chapel Hill to an out-of-state investment firm.

According to the bank and documents filed at the Orange County Register of Deeds Office, the buyer of the loan is CSMI Investors, a Delaware company. A spokesman for the company's registered agent declined to comment Friday.

A Bank of America spokeswoman responded to questions with a press release suggesting the loan was part of a sale of a larger portfolio of 29 "performing and non-performing commercial real estate loans" in 16 states with a total unpaid principal balance of $880 million.

The release from global investment manager Invesco, did not name Greenbridge or any specific properties. It said the portfolio was acquired by firm subsidiaries WL Ross & Co., Invesco Advisers, Square Mile Capital Management and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds.

Greenbridge, an environmentally innovative project on West Rosemary Street, has 97 condominiums and retail space in connected seven- and 10-story buildings. The $56 million project was financed with a three-year $43.25 million construction loan and millions from the developers and their friends and family - money that they say they have now lost.

On Friday, developer Tim Toben said he and the other partners - Michael Cucchiara, Richard Dlesk, Frank Phoenix and Tom Tucker - would like to remain involved if possible.

"We're willing to play whatever role is best for the new owners and residents," Toben said. "We assume that the new buyer will wish to install its own operators, and we're happy to assist in the transition."

'A great place to live'

Units had been selling from the low $400,000s to more than $1 million when Bank of America balked at paying final bills that came in $1.6 million over budget. After contractors filed $7.9 million in liens, the bank began foreclosure proceedings in April. At that point, about $29 million was outstanding on the construction loan.

Only 37 of the 97 units had sold when the bank froze sales. Real estate experts are waiting to see how much the new owners paid for the outstanding loan and whether they cut prices on the remaining units.

In interviews last month, Greenbridge homeowners said they enjoyed downtown living and energy bills that are half what similar-size, conventionally built space would generate.

Lizzie McKenna, 26, a UNC-Chapel Hill fundraiser, and her husband, a dental student, walk or bike to work, head to the local ACME restaurant for $12.95 Tuesdays, and enjoy movie nights with friends in Greenbridge's ground-floor media center. They had 15 over recently for "Inglourious Basterds."

"It really is a great place to live," McKenna said.

Michael Parker, 61, a pharmaceutical consultant who has lived in Manhattan, doesn't worry about a new owner cutting prices to sell units. Greenbridge prices are comparable to those of 140 West Franklin, the eight-story condominium building under construction a couple of blocks away, and Parker isn't looking to move again anytime soon anyway. "Just like I try to avoid the day-to-day fluctuations of the stock market, I try not to pay attention to what is happening to my apartment day to day," he said.

Parker attended UNC-CH during the 1970s and remembers Franklin Street as the town's social and economic center. When he came back about a year ago, he says, he saw the "devitalization of downtown."

Now, with his home, 140 West Franklin and the university planning to renovate the University Square shopping center down the street, he hopes to see things turn around and to be a part of it.

"Greenbridge is very much alive and well," he said. "The people who are living here are still glad to live here."

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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