What’s all that heavy equipment doing on the former Sonoma battleground in the Rice Village? Is the project back from the dead?
No. The West University Examiner‘s Michael Reed reports that the fenced-in site of the sacrificed commercial building along Bolsover between Kelvin and Morningside is being used as a staging area for the portion of the Kirby Dr. reconstruction project that stretches between Quenby and Bissonnet. And:
Public Works Department spokesman Alvin Wright said the agreement to use the land was entered into by the Kirby project contractor and Lamesa [Properties], not the city of Houston.
What about those other big ideas for using the liberated land?
Additionally, the Examiner has learned negotiations between the property owner and a residential civic group are under way to make another portion of the property a community garden.
Photo of former Sonoma site from Dunstan Rd.: West University Examiner
A tidbit from Lamesa Properties, proud owner of that block of Bolsover St. in the Rice Village that was supposed to turn into a grand plaza for Randall Davis’s Sonoma development, but for now is just a fenced-off lot:
Company representative Julie Tysor said that while construction is on hold, the firm is open to ideas for the site to have some “long-term benefit to the community.” For now, plans are under way to make the unpaved area a green space, and the paved area may be used for much-needed Village parking.
Photo of Sonoma Site on Bolsover St.: Miya Shay
EMPTY SONOMA SITE UPDATE One possible future for the site of the shelved Sonoma development in the Rice Village: nothing — for a long time. “The 2400 block of Bolsover could remain undeveloped and in the possession of Lamesa Properties another seven-and-half years, according to the terms of the ordinance approving the street’s abandonment. A spokesman for the city said Monday in addition to the five years the agreement allowed for the completion of the retail-residential project and some traffic-related construction, an additional three-year extension can be granted at the ‘sole discretion’ of the director of Public Works. Under the terms of the sale of the street, the additional time could be allowed ‘for extenuating circumstances,’ city spokesman Alvin Wright said.” [West University Examiner]
What effects have difficulties with bank financing stemming from the global financial crisis had on some of those big new developments planned for Houston? The Houston Business Journal‘s Jennifer Dawson weighs in with a “Where Are They Now?” roundup:
- Regent Square: That big design change meant a year’s delay; the first parts of the 24-acre Inner Loop development are now scheduled to start construction in the second quarter of 2009. A marketing center will open at 1203 Dunlavy next month, but have some more official kickoff in February.
- Sonoma: “Called off — for now,” but you already knew that. According to Dawson, it wasn’t so much the banks but the developer that grew skittish: CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
The River Oaks version of Michael Reed’s Examiner story about Sonoma’s failed financing efforts quoted here yesterday has an additional Walgreens update appended. The halt in plans for developing the Sonoma won’t change anything:
Meanwhile, Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger said Monday the Rice Village store will close Dec. 31 as planned and will not be relocated.
Photo of demolition on Bolsover St. last year: Jackson Myers
Sonoma’s would-be developers try to explain to West U Examiner reporter Michael Reed why the Rice Village retail-and-condo project was put “on hold” only a few weeks after the sales team sent out an email to prospective buyers claiming it had received financing:
Julie [Tysor], president of the Appelt Companies, said in an e-mail response to Examiner questions about the financing, “We had secured a substantial majority of the financing for the south building through the cooperation of some local lenders who have also supported this project since its inception.”
She said a number of factors contributed to the financing falling through, “not the least of which is historical world economic crisis that is unprecedented…”
So what’s going to happen to the site — which includes that block of Bolsover St. purchased from the city — now?
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Last month, a Sonoma sales rep told the West U Examiner that the project had secured financing — which turned out to be condo-sales-speak for “Maybe if people think we’re definitely going ahead we can still sell units and somehow find a way out of this mess.” Now Nancy Sarnoff reports in the Chronicle that the developer of the condos-and-retail complex slated for what used to be Bolsover St. in the Rice Village has told her that the project “is being put on hold ‘for the short term.’” This appears to be developer-speak for “We’re toast.”
Was the problem just “economic uncertainties and tumultuous credit markets”? After developer Lamesa Corp. and partner Randall Davis pulled their switcheroo, deciding to start with the project’s second phase because they couldn’t get the more grandiose first phase financed,
they went back to the market and were negotiating for a $70 million loan with 40 percent equity to build the smaller second phase of 85 units.
At that point they had nearly 70 buyers who had put down deposits. More than half were interested in the second building.
Translation: Almost half their buyers bailed.
There’s good news for the trashed 2-block section of the Village Sonoma leaves behind, though:
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GO-AHEADS FOR SONOMA Randall Davis’s Sonoma development couldn’t get financing for its first phase, but the condos-and-retail project’s sales team is now saying it has financing for its second phase, planned for the south side of Bolsover St. And requirements for taking over the block of Bolsover between the two projects have been fulfilled: “In an e-mail sent Saturday, sales team member Keith Kaposta said groundbreaking at the Rice Village site was still expected in February following the expiration of Walgreens’ lease on the property at 5313 Kelvin St. In another development, the city of Houston said Tuesday that
developer Randall Davis property owner La Mesa Corp. had successfully completed all work that was required by the extended deadline of Oct. 27. . . . [Public Works Department spokesman Alvin] Wright said even if the work covered under the letters of credit was not completed by the deadlines, the city would not get the property back. [West University Examiner; previously]
The West U Examiner‘s Michael Reed points out that Randall Davis has a looming deadline to complete some work on the block of Bolsover St. in Rice Village that was purchased from the city:
A condition, passed by the Houston City Council at the time of the sale, specified that some changes to the site of the high-end condo over retail project must be completed within one year.
The block was sold in August of last year so that Davis could use it as part of his Sonoma mixed-use development. Since then, Davis has run into problems finding financing, and the project has changed considerably. He now wants to build the smaller second phase — on the south side of the street — first. But the Walgreens currently on that site has a lease that won’t be up until January.
What needs to get done by the end of October?
The plugging and abandonment of the 8-inch water line within the street, and the relocation of the existing storm sewer inlets to Bolsover and Morningside.
The developer is “required to eliminate the appearance of the public street” at the intersections of Bolsover and both Kelvin and Morningside.
Having torn down an entire block of buildings in the Rice Village for a condo project the company can’t get financed, Randall Davis has a better idea: Why not demolish the buildings on the other side of Bolsover — so they can build the second phase instead?
The Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff reports that Davis and company have been unable to get a $100 million construction loan for the Sonoma mixed-use condo development he’s been marketing for a couple of years. Hey, that’s no problem! Just move on to the next project, and double down on the demo:
Now they’re negotiating for a $70 million loan with 40 percent equity to build the smaller second phase of 85 units.
“Hopefully they’ll respond positively since we have so many sales,” said Davis.
The sales, however, are for the first phase of the project, which has been 50 percent pre-sold.
And the second phase is on the south side of Bolsover, where Walgreen’s has a lease until January.
After the jump: marginal views of phase two!
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“Sonoma is mystery,” proclaims Randall Davis near the end of an excruciatingly long promotional video posted at the project’s recently updated website. Part of the mystery, of course, has been when — or whether — construction might actually begin on the 7-story condos-shops-and-parking Rice Village layer cake. Since the buildings on the site were demolished and the block of Bolsover between Kelvin and Morningside was fenced in last fall, not much has happened.
Nancy Sarnoff has some details on the delay:
Sonoma, an upscale condo and retail project planned in Rice Village, was supposed to break ground in April.
The land has been cleared to start building, but the developers have a loan commitment for just half of what it will take to build it.
“We’re ready to put a shovel in the ground,” said Julie Tysor, president of Lamesa Corp., owner of the project. “The speed of the changing lending markets wasn’t really anticipated by any of the people involved.”
Rendering of Sonoma: Ziegler Cooper Architects
Our story on the Rice Village’s Sonoma development last Thursday repeated KHOU reporter Lee McGuire’s claim:
The developer says potential buyers have reserved all but four of the new condos.
But Jennifer Friedberg’s writeup in this past weekend’s Chronicle sez otherwise:
A total of 115 of the 220 units for sale in Sonoma are already reserved, Tysor said.
That’s quite a number of buyers backing out of their reservations in a very short period, no? But even more curious is this:
The number of units continues to change depending on the square footage potential residents select for each condo.
Contracts won’t be signed until later in the process.
That’s right, ma’am, just tell us how big you’d like your kitchen and we’ll move the wall there.
Ignoring the objections of snooty inner-loopers who think they’re somehow entitled to a continuous grid of streets, City Council voted yesterday to let a block of Bolsover in the Rice Village become two private circular driveways and a restaurant patio. The deal nets the city a whopping $1.5 million—the price of a couple of small luxury condos, maybe.
That’s the last hurdle for Sonoma, which appears to have gained two stories since its last appearance here. Developer Randall Davis claims buyers have “reserved” all but four of the 225 condos. There’s also 125,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space in the complex.
After the jump, a revised aerial view of the new Bolsover dropoff.
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Lamesa Properties plans a large, upscale mixed-use project in the Rice Village.