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Downtown condo faces foreclosure

BRADENTON — A condominium building initially hailed as key to reviving Bradenton’s downtown now appears destined for foreclosure.

River Dance’s developer said Tuesday it won’t fight a lender who wants to foreclose on the eight-story condo building at 808 Third Ave W., saying the real-estate crash makes it inevitable.

“We’re just going to let the foreclosure happen,” said Robert Hatfield, general partner of The Promenade at Riverwalk LLC. “We’ve put a lot of time and money into it, but I can’t do anything about the real-estate market in the U.S., and Florida in particular. The market’s so bad you can’t keep throwing good money after bad.”

Wachovia Bank N.A. sued the developer and its principals Monday, claiming they defaulted on a $28 million mortgage used to construct the building.

The bank contends they missed an October deadline to pay off the loan and owe at least $8.6 million in principal, interest, late charges and other fees.

The bank’s suit, filed in Manatee County Circuit Court, also seeks a court-appointed receiver to oversee the partially occupied building along the Manatee River.

River Dance was to be the first phase of a larger project called Promenade at Riverwalk, originally slated to include four buildings, 350 condos, office space, retail shops and a hotel on vacant land known as the Sandpile. At the time, city officials called the development the linchpin of revitalizing downtown.

But by the time River Dance was completed in 2007, the overheated real-estate market had begun rapidly cooling off. Buyers got cold feet — only 65 of the building’s 115 units have sold, Hatfield said — and the developer twice revised plans for the second phase before putting it on indefinite hold.

Hatfield said the partnership still hopes to develop the second phase, which is not part of the foreclosure suit, into rental apartments when the market improves.

He said he and his partners in the project — John L. Bell, of Atlanta, and Jan E. Smith, of Bradenton, — lobbied Wachovia to restructure the loan because of the market but the North Carolina bank refused.

All three men had signed guarantees that the developer would repay the loan in full.

“We paid down about $20 million, leaving $8 million, and the remaining units are well worth a lot more than that so the bank’s getting a good deal,” Hatfield said. Donald Kirk, cq a Tampa attorney who filed the suit on Wachovia’s behalf, did not return telephone messages Tuesday.

Smith said he was unaware of the suit and couldn’t comment, adding that he has not been actively involved in the development recently. Bell could not be reached for comment.

The suit also names River Dance Condominium Association Inc. and four contractors who have filed construction liens against the building as defendants. The suit seeks to foreclose on the 50 units the developer still owns, not those previously sold to third parties.

Tom Seguin, cq the association’s president, said the foreclosure filing surprised him.

“I had no idea there was any possibility of them going into foreclosure,” he said, saying the developer has been current in paying its share of association fees and operating costs.

River Dance is the second downturn building to be threatened with foreclosure in recent weeks. Regions Bank sued the owners of the former “pink palace” hotel and senior residence at 309 10th St W. on April 24, contending they defaulted on a $2.65 million loan to buy the now-gutted historic landmark.

River Dance also is the second Manatee condo building that its developer’s lender is seeking to repossess. A $23 million foreclosure action against The Palms of Riviera Dunes, a 12-story building at 501 Haben Blvd., Palmetto, is pending.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630

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