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Century Development is Dead for Avondale Estates

City will be courting potential buyers, developers

Chances are “slim to none” that Century Retail will develop a mixed-use shopping development in Avondale Estates, said city commissioner Michael Payne during the Jan. 19 work session at Avondale city hall.

Florida-based Century Retail was slated to develop the four-block area between Avondale Road and Franklin Street, from the Peach State Federal Credit Union to the old Ray's TV Shop near Center Street. Those plans have been at a standstill while Century reorganizes under Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

The city is considering cancelling the development agreement with Century and may look to do so at its upcoming regular commission meeting on Jan. 24.

The agreement allowed Century special zoning and building variances outside of the city’s existing zoning laws to build the mixed-use development on several parcels it had purchased or contracted to buy throughout Avondale.

It also established tax allocation district funds and required Century to reimburse the city for legal and other expenses in four installments.

Century has missed several payment deadlines, according to Clai Brown, city manager with the city of Avondale Estates.

“The development agreement [with Century] has been in default for some time,” said Avondale Mayor Ed Rieker.

Century began acquiring property several years ago in the city’s business district with the intent of building Avondale Marketplace, a 375,000-square-foot mixed-use development anchored by a Publix grocery store. In all, the multi-phase development was to include luxury condos, office, retail space and a parking garage.

Century’s real estate assets listed in the bankruptcy filing come to more than $23 million which is based on property acquisition costs, said Payne, but actual secured debt is about $7.8 million.

After talking to the attorney for Flagstar bank, the primary lender, “it doesn’t appear financially that they're going to be able to put it together,” Payne said.

He added that the city needs to start exploring other possibilities for development of the property.

Century's attorney, Ted Sandler, said the developers paid top dollar for the properties. Given the weak economy and housing market, it didn't make sense to proceed.

Sandler said they received calls from possible buyers of portions of the property and would be looking for buyers to reduce Century's overall loss going forward.

Century is also the developer of another project in Avondale Estates, known as the Maple Street Village. The property, at the corner of Maple Street and East College Avenue, is partially built with steel  girders sticking out of the ground at Maple and East College Avenue. At that site, Finders Keepers was potentially to relocate to the first floor of the building, and two residential units were being built above.

For safety reasons, city commissioners asked Brown to fence in the property at a cost of about $2,500 for six months.

“The bad news is that we’re not getting the property developed in the timeline we wanted,” Payne said.

On the upside, he added, Flagstar Bank officials were happy the city was interested in being proactive with the development's future. Also, any redevelopment of the site will tie in well with 13-acre Fenner Dunlop property which recenty got annexed into Avondale.

“We’re in the midst of reversing our image [for development]” Rieker said. “We need to be thinking about what things we can do to get in front of potential developers.”

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