CHAPEL HILL - Condominiums at Greenbridge, the 7- and 10-story risers that became part of the landscape in 2010, are for sale again under the development’s new owners, after a freeze of more than a year.
Greenbridge promised energy-efficient, luxury condominiums with scenic views from Chapel Hill’s newest tall building, before running into cost overruns and the national housing market collapse.
Square Mile Capital, a New York City-based limited liability company that buys distressed real estate, bought the debt from Bank of America. The sales office at Greenbridge reopened in August, with condos listed in some cases at deep discounts from their original prices.
“Greenbridge was that building that everyone looked at and talked about, and we’re going to make it an absolute success,” said Uri Vaknin of The Marketing Directors, which will oversee sales and marketing at Greenbridge for Square Mile Capital Management.
The new ownership group will redesign the resident lounge, add amenities left incomplete during foreclosure, and fill street-level retail spaces and the building’s condo units, two-thirds of which remain empty.
Vaknin said the company has no plans to scout other developments in the Triangle area, though he said it is always looking for “new opportunities in strong markets.”Gold standard
Greenbridge was designed by internationally renowned architect William McDonough as the first building in North Carolina to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standard, with a solar-heated water unit, subterranean parking deck and building materials selected for their low-impact footprint.
It was approved in 2007 and completed in 2010 at a reported cost of $65 million. Condo sales were halted in November 2010 when the contractor, Weaver Cooke Construction of Greensboro, filed a lien against the developers for $1.6 million in unpaid invoices and Bank of American refused to cover the overruns.
“The original developers did an amazing job with this building, and they were caught, as many developers are, in the housing market crash,” Vaknin said.
With no money coming in, the original partners could not repay the remaining $28.7 million on their $43 million loan from Bank of America. The bank began foreclosure proceedings in early 2011.
Only a third of the building’s condos had sold, most of them at reduced prices to meet the town’s affordable housing requirements. The town requires 15percent of units in new projects to be priced so people earning less than 80 percent of the area median income can afford them. Gentrification
Critics said Greenbridge would hasten gentrification in the historically black, working-class Northside neighborhood. On June 18, 2011, masked protesters were arrested for spraying silly-string in the lobby.
A few days later, Bank of America again delayed an auction sale of the property to shore up agreements with an investor group willing to buy the debt.
In October 2011, Invesco Ltd., announced that it along with its subsidiaries and Square Mile Capital Management LLC and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors LLC, had purchased a pool of 29 commercial real estate loans from Bank of America, including the Greenbridge property, for a total of $889 million. Square Mile Capital Management, a New York LLC, purchased the debt on Greenbridge.
“What’s great about this group is they take a very thoughtful and strategic approach to sales and marketing,” Vaknin said. “They don’t go in and do a slash and burn of pricing. We did months and months of feasibility research…they’re not afraid to spend money and do it right.”
All that turmoil did not cause much inconvenience to Hershel Meadows, who left the unit he has been renting at Greenbridge one recent morning to take his 16-year old dog, Molly, for a walk.
“It didn’t have any impact for us; we just changed who we made the checks to,” he said.
“They kept the maintenance fully staffed, and they did a good job at the front desk with the concierge,” he said.
Meadows and his wife moved from midtown Tulsa, Okla., for his job at Pure Water Solutions in Mebane. They moved into their condominium in September, 2010. He said he enjoys the walks down Franklin Street and into Carrboro, and as empty-nesters, the building fit their lifestyle.
Meadows said he and his wife liked their neighbors, felt safe in the building, and liked their low heating and energy bills. He expressed his admiration for the original developers, and said he hoped the new owners had better luck.
“Hopefully they’ll have some success,” Meadows said. “I think one of the keys is getting people on that lower level, the retail. We go to University United Methodist church, and we tell people we live in Greenbridge, and people say, ‘Gosh, I didn’t even know it was open.’”