Since the Great Depression, bankruptcy -- both personal and corporate -- has cast a long shadow over the American psyche. Whether it was the titans of 20th century commerce canonized in Monopoly -- or the wizards of Wall Street canonized in the last decade -- the greatest financial parties of all time terminate in one brief acronym - BK, or its adoring sibling, foreclosure.
Now, as some mega-projects go under, foreclosure of real estate projects is reaching a new apotheosis. This week, the owners of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village -- a haven for the middle class on the East Side of Manhattan -- handed back the keys to its creditors. Four years ago, Tishman Speyer Properties purchased the 11,227 apartment complex for $5.4 billion dollars -- the largest real estate deal in US history. Their projections of a 13.5% return on capital never came to pass.
Because real estate relies on a large measure debt for its financing, when values drop the equity portion of a deal can very quickly evaporate. CALPERS (California Public Employees' Retirement System) wrote off its entire $500 million investment in the project (a 26.5% stake). Even the Church of England got punished, losing its $64 million investment in the project. Gross miscalculations based on bubble-era projections turned good money into naught.
- LA Central (South Park, 11th and Figueroa) Wells Fargo is in the process of foreclosing on NY developer the Moinian Group for failure to make payment on its $45.6 million note. The developer is in negotiations with the lender and hopes to keep the land, set to become a $1 billion mega-project near Staples Center.
- The Flat (Downtown West, 750 Garland Avenue) China Trust Bank foreclosed on owner 750 Garland LLC after they defaulted on a $23 million construction loan, and later sold the project to private equity fund SA Properties for $20 million. The rental building's cash flows were likely attracted the new investors.
- EVO South (South Park, 11th and Grand) The mezzanine lender, Westport Capital Partners, took over the project after Portland-based South Group stepped away from its loan on this 311-unit condo project. The building continues to sell units, uninterrupted by this transfer in ownership.
- Santee Village (Fashion District, 716 S Los Angeles Street) Bank of America now owns the four condominium building project after investor Patriot Group and developer MJW investments defaulted on its $47 million loan. One of the buildings never opened and probably will not any time soon.
- Brockman Building (Jewelry District, 7th and Grand) Developer West Millenium Group defaulted on its $35 million loan for this 12-story condominium projects, but has not yet been foreclosed upon by lender Bank of America.
Who will benefit from this financial churn? Buyers and renters. There is a lot of discounting going on, and others' losses will prove to be their gains.