For more than a year, bride-to-be Mallory Allison thought she had booked the perfect reception venue for her Charleston wedding Saturday.
That's when she found that The Vue at Ripley Pointe had been taken over by a bank after its owner, local real estate developer Mark Caldwell, couldn't pay off a two-year loan that had become due.
The two-story building on the Ashley River had $5.7 million of debt against it when Security Federal Bank of Aiken took possession last week, according to Charleston County court records.
Allison and her high school sweetheart, Phillip, had heard rumors about the Vue's finances in recent weeks, but said staffers reassured them that contracts with the facility would be honored.
She said Caldwell told her wedding planner last week to send in the final payment on the nearly $15,000 booking. The foreclosure of the property was finalized last Thursday, court records show.
"It's definitely surreal," she said. "Everything up until this point was so perfect, and then it's five days before the wedding and you have nothing."
Caldwell said the 1.6-acre property got caught up in the real estate market slowdown.
"It was foreclosed on," said Caldwell, whose daughter, Ashley, made headlines this past winter in Vancouver as the U.S. Olympic team's youngest aerial freestyle skier. "There was too much debt on the property."
He added that he once planned to demolish the building and redevelop the property into 40 luxury condominiums. Prices would start at $1 million and top out at $3.4 million.
The green-roofed building, the former Crab House restaurant, is visible from U.S. Highway 17 and the James Island connector. It features panoramic views of downtown Charleston and the marinas scattered along the Ashley River.
As for Allison, she and Phillip found another venue on the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant. But she said Caldwell told her fiance that he's not refunding their money.
Karen Porreca, the Vue's former event planner, said a handful of other wedding parties are in the same situation.
Asked if he had anything to say about the wedding party predicaments, Caldwell responded: "No."