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Large residential project faces foreclosure

MANATEE — Yet another stalled residential development in northern Manatee County is facing foreclosure.

This time it’s Curiosity Creek, which was approved for nearly 1,600 homes on the north side of Buckeye Road midway between U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 but has not broken ground.

National City Bank and Orion Bank sued to foreclose on the 788-acre project last week, contending MCZ/Centrum Florida IX LLC and several principals defaulted on loans totaling $23.3 million.

MCZ/Centrum is a joint venture between MCZ Development Inc. and Centrum Properties Inc., both headquartered in Chicago.

John Green, a Centrum official, said Thursday that the project got caught in the credit crunch and real-estate market crash.

“We can’t sell it, there’s no financing to develop it and the banks don’t want to lend money,” he said, adding the developers still hope to reach a compromise with the banks.

Messages left with MCZ Development were not immediately returned.

The suit, filed in Manatee County Circuit Court on May 21, contends the defendants failed to repay the loan when it matured on March 10. The banks assert they are owed at least $27.1 million in principal, interest, legal fees and other costs.

The loans were used primarily to buy agricultural The loans were used primarily to buy land and do pre-development work for the proposed project, named after a body of water that meanders through the site.

MCZ and Centrum won county approval in 2006 for 1,594 homes and 150,000 square feet of commercial space on the property. The approved preliminary plans also included a potential middle school and regional park.

But the developers later submitted an alternate plan in response to the housing slump and the county’s efforts to encourage port-related development in the area. The revised plan called for the option of developing 7 million square feet of light industrial, commercial and other port-related uses instead of residential.

The county has not acted on the alternate plan, which Green said was the result of discussions with Port Manatee and county officials.

Curiosity Creek is the third proposed development along Buckeye Road to face foreclosure because of the weak housing market.

Orion Bank sued earlier this year to foreclose on Arbor Park, a residential and commercial project planned at the corner of U.S. 301 and Buckeye Road. And AmTrust Bank is seeking to foreclose on 642 acres at the southwest corner of I-75 and Buckeye Road that was to be Stone Dam Preserve, later renamed SouthBay.