Unfinished condos may be decaying

Steel at The Park condos has started to rust. Wind and rain have damaged fireproofing materials on the walls, and stucco, glass windows and interior doors have been left inside, targets for vandals and the elements.

That rare scene of uptown decay – a sharp contrast from the city's shiny image – was painted by attorneys Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

As the fate of the stalled condo tower has languished in court, its developer burdened with financial problems, the building could be falling into disrepair, its lender's attorney said.

The 21-story project at Caldwell and Third streets uptown is about 70 percent complete, but it remains open to the weather, said Judy Thompson of Poyner & Spruill, an attorney for BB Syndication Services of Wisconsin.

In addition to the dangers facing its structure and the building materials inside, a city fire inspector has expressed concern about wood and debris, a fire hazard, she said. City officials have also revoked the developer's right to use part of Caldwell Street for scaffolding, raising the question of who will remove it, Thompson said.

The court on Wednesday appointed Langdon Cooper, a Gastonia attorney, as the property's interim trustee, meaning he will have control over those issues and others until the bankruptcy case is resolved. He will have the power to decide how to fix the problems and could ultimately market the project and try to sell it to another developer.

The high-profile Park is one of several uptown condo towers to face problems this year, despite showing strong sales. 210 Trade, the condo tower going up at the EpiCentre, has been stalled since February in a legal dispute between its developer at the EpiCentre's. Two other projects, One Charlotte and 300 South Tryon, have been postponed this year.

The Park went into foreclosure last month. As of Aug. 20, its developer, 222 South Caldwell Street Ltd. Partnership, part of Verna & Associates of Charlotte, owed more than $28 million on its $30.7 million loan.

After an auction and bidding period this month, a company called Summitt Shores had registered the high bid, $18.8 million.

But on Aug. 14, three contractors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition, forcing the condo tower into court and temporarily halting the foreclosure process.

Those creditors, who say they're owed more than $1.8 million, want to see the project sold for a higher price and supported Cooper's appointment, said Kevin Sink of Nicholls & Crampton in Raleigh, who filed the bankruptcy petition on their behalf.

“There needs to be someone at the head of this ship,” he said. “… This gives them the opportunity to maximize (the project's) value.”