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Mongomery Tower to be auctioned

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The paper had a great picture of the Montgomery Building, but they did not post it online...


Foreclosings could alter local landscape

By Chris Winston | Business Editor - The Herald-Journal

The historic Montgomery Building in downtown Spartanburg may be headed to the auction block.

BB&T foreclosed Thursday on the building, owned by Renaissance developer Arthur Cleveland and Montgomery Building LLC.

The bank is owed more than $2.7 million in late principal, interest and fees on the 81-year-old landmark, which was designed by Lockwood-Greene and for many years was the city's signature downtown edifice.

Spartanburg County Master-In-Equity Gordon Cooper ordered the building, as well as the empty Kmart shopping center on Garner Road that also was foreclosed upon, to be sold at auction June 7.

Chinquapin Creek LLC, headed by Cleveland and his former partner Brad Thomas, owes nearly $2.7 million on the 18.5-acre development off North Pine Street. The 104,000-square-foot shopping center lost Kmart as its anchor in 1993 and has been mostly vacant since.

Cleveland 'has been busy'

Ken Anthony, attorney for Cleveland, said he doesn't expect the two properties to make it to auction.

He said Cleveland is working on either refinancing the properties with another lender or seeking other opportunities for the buildings.

Those options were not completed before foreclosure, Anthony said, because Cleveland has been busy with the Spartanburg Marriott at Renaissance Park.

"He has been busy building and finishing a hotel for Spartanburg," Anthony said.

Thomas said the Kmart property would definitely not make it to auction.

He said he expects his development group to buy the property and announce a new development for the site soon.

"The property has sat vacant for quite some time," Thomas said. "It is ready for a second life. It is our hope to announce a project very soon."

If the properties were auctioned, however, city leaders said both pieces of property represent opportunities for developers and the city.

Spartanburg City Manager Mark Scott said both sites are very important to the future of the city, with the Montgomery Building's presence downtown and the shopping center's Pine Street frontage.

"They are very key sites (with) tremendous opportunity to be something special to the community," Scott said.

Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet said redeveloping the former Kmart site is one of the city's projects he would most like to see done.

The site has potential environmental problems, as the city once operated a dump and trash incinerator that covered a large area around what is now Garner Road and North Pine Street.

Those environmental concerns don't bother Barnet, who said he was told the property that now boasts Barnet Park had environmental concerns.

The Montgomery Building, meanwhile, may have its own set of challenges.

Barnet said there is some historic importance to the building, which contains the Carolina Theatre (called the "finest theater in South Carolina" when it was constructed), but there are also some negatives.

There will be some "economic choices" to be made on the site, Barnet said, whether someone buys the building to refurbish it or buys it to tear it down and build anew.

If the shopping center or the Montgomery Building do not bring the combined $5.5 million their previous owners owe, both Cleveland and Thomas will be called to court as individuals to help fill the gap.

And there could be even more court actions to come.

There have been about 16 cases filed since last July with Cleveland or Renaissance Park named as a defendant. Most involve loans that have gone into default, and they seek an additional $6 million on top of the two foreclosures heard Thursday.

There have also been 22 mechanics liens filed against Renaissance Park for work on the hotel that has not been paid for. While several of the liens have been satisfied, there are still millions owed to Turner Construction.

Cleveland was unavailable for comment.

Anthony said the payments "will come through," and that Turner Construction will fulfill its remaining commitments to building the hotel.

City officials also said the Renaissance project would continue.

"There's no doubt that this is going to be a great location and, in time, everything we could want out there will be developed," Scott said.

"This project will be completed and it will be done with quality," Barnet said.

"We will work together with all of the players. We will meet the expectations of the community and the Marriott."

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