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Owners of EpiCentre, Rosewood add Ballantyne Village to portfolio

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DAVIE HINSHAW - 2007 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHO
Ballantyne Village's tax value increased 30 percent. As with many retail properties, it has struggled to find tenants. 2007 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO - DAVIE HINSHAW

A local investor group known for buying high-profile distressed properties has purchased Ballantyne Village for a fraction of its pre-recession value.

Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management paid $26.1 million for the mixed-use complex, a spokesman said Thursday. In 2006, shortly after it was completed, Ballantyne Village was appraised for $71 million.

Ballantyne Village flirted with foreclosure and a sale before. The former owner, BV Retail LLC, restructured its debt and in 2011 avoided an auction by Bank of America, the lender on BV Retail’s $50-million loan. But loan documents last year showed the property was approaching foreclosure again.

“Ever since we knew there were hints of a foreclosure it’s been on our radar,” said Ted Hill, vice president of Vision Ventures, one of the real estate firms that bought the complex. Vision teamed with Mount Vernon Asset Management to buy Ballantyne Village after Bank of America put the 170,000-square-foot property up for sale in March.

Together, Vision and Mount Vernon have capitalized on commercial properties built with grand visions before the recession that ran into trouble soon afterward, so-called “value investments.”

The investment group also owns the Rosewood Condominiums at Providence and Sharon Amity roads. The luxury condos filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

“We look for well-located real estate assets that are impaired,” Hill said. He said Ballantyne Village met both criteria.

Hill and his partners have invested $15 million into renovating EpiCentre, as well adding more family-friendly and daytime options in an attempt to shed the image of an exclusively nightclub destination.

At Ballantyne Village, Hill said the companies will focus on marketing the property better – both to tenants and shoppers.

“It’s a great location,” Hill said of Ballantyne Village, which is at Johnston Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway. “It’s a matter of putting some effort into revitalizing it.”

“A lot of our effort is going to be focused on marketing, drawing that right tenant,” Hill said. He said attracting new tenants should be easier now that there is less uncertainty about the complex’s future. “I think there’s a need for some service-based retailers, restaurants. I think there’s a market there for apparel there as well.”

Hill said the firms will try to boost the number of visitors at Ballantyne Village and stress it as a family-friendly destination. He said he wants it to be a vibrant locale but not another EpiCentre: “not nightclubs, but still a place where you can go have a drink after work.”

The complex is about three-quarters leased, Hill said, but he declined to give an exact figure.

The outer southeast Charlotte submarket, which includes Ballantyne, had the second-lowest retail vacancy rate – at 4.9 percent – of anywhere in the region during the second quarter, according to market research firm Karnes.

Merrifield Patrick Vermillion, which Bank of America hired to manage the property last year, will continue providing those services.

Now that the market has largely recovered from its recession lows, Hill said there aren’t as many options for buying distressed properties.

“We’re not seeing a lot of the distress we were,” he said. “But on the plus side, its a healthier market.”

Portillo: 704-358-5041; On Twitter @ESPortillo
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