Hixson's Oak Park shopping center defaults on loan

Hixson's Oak Park shopping center defaults on loan

November 10th, 2011 by Dave Flessner in Local - Breaking News

Cars fill the parking lot in front of Walmart on Wednesday at the Oak Park Town Center shopping development on Highway 153.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

One of Hixson's biggest shopping centers is facing a foreclosure sale next month.

The Oak Park Town Center, which includes 168,736 square feet of retail space next to a super Walmart store on Highway 153, is scheduled to be sold on the auction block next month unless the current owners of the complex are able to rework the loan used to fund the decade-old center.

Developer Bucky Wolford, who built and opened the 21-acre shopping center in October 2001, said he hopes the outstanding loans can be reworked, but he declined to discuss any details of the current loan default.

Wolford said the center has suffered since the 2009 bankruptcy and closing of Goody's department store. Among 13 storefronts in the Oak Park Town Center, six are now vacant.

Wolford's development group borrowed $17 million from a lending consortium organized by JP-Morgan Bank a decade ago, according to the Hamilton County Register of Deeds. But property trustee Harry B. Ray, who was appointed to oversee the foreclosure against the property, said the current owners have defaulted on the debt.

Ray has scheduled a foreclosure sale at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6 at the Hamilton County courthouse to dispose of the property.

"Hopefully, something will be resolved on that, but at this point I really can't say much," Wolford said. "Goody's went bankrupt and with the economy being what it is it's been very difficult to replace them. Right now, we've been having to carry the project.

The Hamilton County Assessor of Property appraises the center at $16.5 million and Wolford said his nearby Towne Center North, which includes Target, Best Buy and other retailers, is doing fine. Oak Park Town Center includes Marshall's, Old Navy, Office Depot, Kirkland's and other retailers.

But the value of retail properties in Hixson could be hurt by the recent auction of Northgate Mall in Hixson, which CBL & Associates Properties acquired for just $11.5 million. CBL officials are preparing plans to upgrade the 820,000-square-foot mall.