Brent Finnegan -- January 22nd, 2011
Development of an expansive new urbanist subdivision east of Harrisonburg has slowed since the housing market crash in 2008. Doug Manners reported in Saturday’s Daily News-Record that The Hine Group, the developer behind Preston Lake has been “locked in a still-unsettled legal battle with its lender, Wachovia Bank,” and that the development may be headed to foreclosure.
I first wrote about Preston Lake in 2007, a few weeks after construction began. I ignorantly remarked that “this sort of real estate should sell like hotcakes” (although I added a dash of skepticism for good measure). A few weeks before the national mortgage crisis boiled over in 2008, developers and new residents gave the impression that Preston Lake was moving ahead as planned. On August 27, 2008, the DNR reported, “Preston Lake, the mixed-use development located at the intersection of U.S. 33 and Massanetta Springs Road, is getting its first residents. And its residents are getting exactly what they want.”
But now, with only about 20 percent of the master-planned community completed as of March, and following a public notice that 124.693 acres of the Preston Lake project will be auctioned Feb. 3, residents are not getting exactly what they want. Manners reports:
“Everybody is scared to death about what’s going to happen,” said Murray Mahool, who owns a row house. “The best thing to happen would be for the foreclosure to go through and have someone else buy it and try to turn it around.” […]
Many homeowners chose Preston Lake for the community-type amenities promised, including a clubhouse, pool, parks and walking trails. Residents are still waiting for those features.
“We hope to see the development come to life,” said Debbie Huntley, who owns a detached house. “Most of us here, we love our homes and we love the community even though we’re disappointed we don’t have the amenities.”
Plans for Preston Lake’s commercial “Main Street” have yet to materialize. Clothing stores Talbots, Coldwater Creek and Joseph A. Bank were supposed to open in fall 2009, but no retail stores have located there.
But it’s still possible the foreclosure and auction might not happen. Harrisonburg Realtor Scott Rogers explained on his blog that the notice of auction “doesn’t necessarily mean that the foreclosure sale will take place, but this is a significant step in that direction.”
Rogers guessed at several different possibilities: That the auction won’t happen, and sales will continue at a snail’s pace; or another developer might buy it and continue with a similar plan; or Wachovia Bank might become the owner, and find another way to sell the subdivision, either as a whole, or in parts.