Blackrock Realty's foreclosure proceedings drag on over Metro Center development
Published 1:06 am, Friday, January 29, 2010
In his State of the Town address Monday night, First Selectman Ken Flatto declared that the public portion of the town's third train station will be open by year's end.
Whether or not that occurs, the private portion of that project certainly will not.
A cloud of doubt hangs over the fate of what was once hailed as Fairfield's largest ever development. Blackrock Realty LLC, the current owner of 28 acres of the site where the train station will be built -- 21 Blackrock Turnpike -- remains locked in foreclosure proceedings with TD Bank N.A. over the $20 million mortgage that TD Bank claims Blackrock defaulted on.
The proceedings are now 12 months in; at stake is the property itself. Blackrock claims it spent more than $20 million over the past decade. The money, it claims, went toward obtaining permits for development and gaining approval for environmental remediation of the property's pollution. In its defense, Blackrock refers to the property as a "blighted, polluted former industrial casting foundry."
Blackrock is also countering that TD Bank violated the terms of the mortgage when it brought forth the foreclosure without allowing a five-day window for Blackrock to repay the loan.
According to court documents, TD Bank's letter of notice was sent to Kurt Wittek, Blackrock's principal for the project, on Dec. 12, 2008. The letter said that, because Wittek was deemed to be in default under the terms of the contract, the bank "hereby demands immediate payment in full," requesting $20,123,239.92.
"In the event you do not make payment in full, you may expect that we shall commence immediate foreclosure proceedings on any mortgage or security agreement and/or take any such other legal action as we may deem appropriate," the letter ends.
Blackrock is further countering that it was not in default, and that the suit undermined the greater project, which Blackrock claims was both "feasible and viable."
According to several sources, Blackrock and TD Bank entered discussions for a second modification and extension agreement in the fall of 2007. The first modification of the mortgage occurred in Jan. 2006, when the initial $10 million mortgage was raised to $20 million. TD Bank reportedly refused to renegotiate, at which point Blackrock stopped making payments.
The proceedings last spring dragged the town of Fairfield in as a defendant, a result of the 99-year lease Fairfield took on 1.53 acres of Blackrock's property, which the town rented for $1 a year. That land would be used for a couple hundred parking spaces, underneath the planned commuter waiting area.
TD Bank lawyers spent the past summer and fall unsuccessfully requesting access to information. The requests included Blackrock's remedial action plan, all permits it had obtained, project plans and the specifications for the "developer improvements" to the property and the access road that the firm would have built under the three-party agreement signed with the town and state in 2003.
Now, about a year after the suit was first filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, Bank North lawyers are seeking to strike three of Blackrock's four defense points and two of its three counter claims against TD Bank.
Last Wednesday, Blackrock argued against those requests.
Said Town Attorney Dick Saxl on the suit: "I suspect, at the end of the day, they'll shake hands and Blackrock will continue to own the property."
Said state Sen. John McKinney, R-28, "If the private developer is unwilling to or simply cannot perform his obligations, whether he doesn't have the money or he is unwilling to spend the money, then the state or town needs to take action to force him to perform or find someone else who can."