Sanctuary project in foreclosure sold

PALMETTO — A Central Florida land investment and development firm has purchased the proposed Sanctuary Cove project, which was facing the largest foreclosure action in Manatee County history.

A limited-liability partnership led by Avanti Properties Group bought the project last month, paying an undisclosed price for the 211-acre residential and commercial development along the Manatee River, those involved in the deal said Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal also resolves a $57 million foreclosure lawsuit that three lenders filed against the project in July, said Tim Morris of Corvus International, the primary developer.

“We were able to work out a suitable agreement between our lenders and the buyer in which we avoided the foreclosure action, and the lenders received an acceptable sales price to satisfy our financial obligations as the project developers,” Morris said in an e-mail.

William McCaughan, a Miami attorney representing the banks in the foreclosure suit, did not immediately return a telephone message Monday. The foreclosure case remains open, according to court records.

Morris said the Avanti deal keeps Corvus as Sanctuary Cove’s lead developer but declined further comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Andrew Dubill, Avanti’s vice president of investments, said his company had no comment.

Avanti, based in Winter Park, “is the United States’ largest investment firm exclusively dedicated to land investment, development and finance,” according to its Web site. The company has invested more than $1 billion in more than 25 U.S. markets on behalf of university endowments, charitable foundations, pension funds and other investors, the Web site said.

Sanctuary Cove is approved for 916 condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes.

It also has approval for 200,000 square feet of commercial space fronting U.S. 301.

Since winning city approval in 2005, Corvus has installed underground utilities and streets but has not yet built any homes in Sanctuary Cove. The project stalled as a result of the credit crunch and housing downturn, leading to several contractor liens and the foreclosure suit that court officials said was the largest on record.

In the suit, Wachovia Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Huntington National Bank said the developer defaulted on $56.4 million in loans by missing interest payments, not paying property taxes and not completing the project on time.

Those problems since have been resolved, Morris said.

“Given all the turmoil in the real estate marketplace, I believe it is a collective win-win for all parties concerned,” he said of the Avanti deal. “We are excited to be working with our new partners on this exciting opportunity.”

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