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Foreclosure lawsuits don’t stop Promenade developer

BRADENTON — A second foreclosure lawsuit has been filed against The Promenade at Riverwalk development, this time targeting the site of a proposed luxury apartment building.

Wachovia Bank is seeking to foreclose on a vacant 3.5-acre parcel directly behind the incomplete Manatee Players theater on Third Avenue West, court records show. The bank contends The Promenade at Riverwalk II LLC missed an Oct. 12, 2008 deadline to repay a $6.93 million loan plus interest.

It’s the second foreclosure suit that Wachovia has filed against the developer. The first, filed in May, seeks to foreclose on 52 developer-owned units in the River Dance condominium building, 808 Third Ave. W.

Yet, despite the latest suit and plans to forfeit the condo units, the developer said Tuesday he still hopes to break ground soon on the five-story apartment building. Construction could start later this year and be completed by mid-2011.

Robert Hatfield of Hatfield Development Co. in Atlanta, is a partner in The Promenade at Riverwalk II LLC. He said NDC Construction Co. would build the 225-unit building to be called River Song. Plans call for one- to three-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 750 to 1,500 square feet, with retail space on the ground floor.

“It’s good to go,” Hatfield said of the apartment building. “Like everything else, there’s a lot of hoops to go through, but we’re getting there.”

One of those hoops is resolving the foreclosure suit that Wachovia Bank filed in Manatee County Circuit Court last week. Hatfield said he did not know the suit had been filed, but said, “We’re about to pay it off.”

Attorneys for the bank did not return telephone calls Tuesday.

It’s almost certain Wachovia will foreclose on the condo units, as Hatfield said he plans to forfeit them because of the local condo market slump. Instead, the focus is on the estimated $35 million apartment building because the rental market is stronger.

“We did a market study and it showed there is a market for multi-family housing,” Hatfield said. “Three years ago, everybody was moving out of rentals and buying homes because the financing was so easily available. Now, it’s the reverse and more people are moving into apartments, so the timing’s right.”

Another developer involved in the Promenade project, but not in the foreclosure suits, also said he intends to move forward. Bradenton Riverfront Partners II LLC expects to submit revised plans to the city within a month, said Edward Vogler II, a Bradenton attorney and one of the partners.

Those plans envision a pair of four- or five-story residential buildings, a 94-room hotel and roughly 120,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space along Third Avenue West between the theater and Ninth Street West. The city owns the land but leases it to the partnership.

“We’re planning to start as soon as we have some stability in the residential marketplace to support those types of businesses,” Vogler said.

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