Along with me, I am sure all of you have been watching the development of the Uptown Worthington project on Route 29. This redevelopment project taken on by Brian O’Neill and O’Neill Properties Group on 100 acres of the former Worthington Steel factory was supposed to be a model for the planning concept ‘New Urbanism’. The project had a price tag of $540 million, 1.6 million sq. ft and was supposed to include 753 luxury residences, nearly 800,000 sq. ft. of upscale retail and about 185,000 sq. ft. of office space. Having Wegmans Market in our backyard was exciting news for a lot of us!
Now it looks like Uptown Worthington may be a model for great projects falling to the woes of today’s economic crisis. O’Neill Properties Group is in danger of having to give the keys back to Citizens Bank. Citizens Bank has secured a $61 million judgment against the developer who borrowed money to build the project. Court documents filed a couple of weeks ago show that the bank entered the judgment against Brian O’Neill, after the bank and the King of Prussia developer were unable to come to terms on the loan. In researching the situation, I determined that O’Neill Properties originally arranged an $86 million loan with Citizens Bank through Malvern Hill Associates and other O’Neill-affiliations for the land acquisition and construction costs. O’Neill guaranteed the loan, which was initially made in 2006 and amended in October 2008 when the financial markets worldwide were in turmoil. As of this date, Mr. O’Neill has not filed a petition to strike the judgment (the legal option when someone places a judgment against them.)
The million dollar question (or rather $61 million question) – what does this news mean for the project? I am not sure what the timeline is for O’Neill Properties to resolve the loan issue . . . and what happens in the meantime, does the project continue with O’Neill Properties? I’d like some of our developer, planners, and contractors to weigh in on this one. Does my much anticipated Wegmans Market get completed? Will Citizens Bank become the developer in this project?
This turn of events for Brian O’Neill certainly must be causing pause for Peter Monaghan and Strategic Realty Investments (SRI). Here we have SRI, the recently-named master developer of the Paoli Transit Center project which is to include multi-use development, just down the road from the current financial woes of the Uptown Worthington project. I don’t personally know Brian O’Neill, but in the interest of the community, here’s hoping that some good news comes his way (in the form of $61 million!). For Peter Monaghan, O’Neill Properties Group’s misfortune must be an eye-opening revelation, so here’s sending best wishes to Strategic Realty Investments for their success with the Paoli project!