The new lender for the developer of the Noisette project is pushing forward with foreclosure proceedings as fast as the Charleston County court system will let it go.
Master-in-Equity Judge Mikell Scarborough opens bidding today on three parcels of the Noisette land, roughly 240 acres at the north end of the former Navy base that were supposed to serve as an anchor of North Charleston's urban revitalization efforts.
That property owned by Noisette at Navy Yard LLC fell into foreclosure last year when its mortgage lender, Capmark Finance Inc., said the developer fell behind on a $24 million loan.
Capmark sold the note last week to CHSA LLC, a recently formed entity registered in Delaware.
Columbia lawyer Robert E. Stepp represented CHSA at a court hearing Tuesday. He asked for a speedy sale.
"My client's interest is in getting this process closed as quickly as possible," Stepp said.
It remains unclear who exactly Stepp's client is. After the hearing, the attorney declined to answer questions about who formed CHSA or how much it paid for the Capmark mortgage.
People familiar with the deal said the CHSA group includes Bob Faith, the former S.C. Department of Commerce secretary who heads a Charleston-based real estate firm called Greystar Partners.
Faith's ties to the Commerce Department would add a new wrinkle to a heated debate over whether rail lines that run through the Noisette site should be used to link trains to a new port terminal being built on the south end of the former base. The state's main economic development agency has been working to ensure that the new terminal can be served by both local rail carriers, CSX and Norfolk Southern.
But the Noisette property and the tracks are near older neighborhoods, and increased train traffic could hamper the city's revitalization efforts.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey is opposed to the idea.
"If you open up the back of that property on the north end to rail, it's not just the trains," Summey said Tuesday. "If that becomes a rail yard, every one of the current three ports which don't have rail would have to (bring) trailers to that site" by truck.
Summey said he spoke with Faith after hearing rumors that Faith was trying to acquire the property and possibly flip the ownership to Norfolk Southern.
During the conversation, Faith cited a confidentiality agreement in declining to say whether he was behind CHSA, Summey said. But the pair later spoke about how Faith would want the zoning changed if he were to take possession of the property.
Summey did not mince words over what would happen if anyone tries to put a rail yard on the Noisette property.
"If they were to try and do that, we'll end up in federal court," he said.
He said the rail proposal would violate a key provision of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the State Ports Authority.
"That's a contract to me," Summey said.
As Navy Yard at Noisette's new lender, CHSA could take ownership of the land if bids fall short of the estimated $24 million mortgage balance.
Noisette lawyer Andy Gowder said the property is complicated, making its current value tough to pinpoint.
The court will accept offers until Nov. 1 for the three parcels, which are:
--A 53-acre tract north of Noisette Creek that has some industrial buildings that are leased to tenants.
--A 98-acre property along the city-owned Riverfront Park that includes a historic collection of officers' homes.
--An 82-acre section at the southern end of the Noisette project, including a parking lot.
If the bidding process isn't successful, the property will be sold at a traditional court-supervised auction on Dec. 7.
The foreclosure lawsuit does not include about 100 acres on the former base that the Noisette developers still control, such as the hospital district and the Storehouse Row complex of warehouses and office buildings.
Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or email@example.com.