Wheatfields property changes hands

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson The Wheatfields Senior Center has been taken by a Dallas bank as part of a bankruptcy. The future of the of the unfinished $20 million project is unclear.

Sharna Johnson

The future of a Clovis eyesore that was supposed to bring new housing for senior citizens is still unclear but it has changed ownership.

Records indicate the bank financing the ill-fated Wheatfields Senior Center has taken possession of the property on north Prince Street as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

The Clovis facility reverted to bank ownership as part of the restructuring, according to Angie Galimanis, spokeswoman for restructuring officer Ham Street and Associates, which represents housing giant Sunwest Management Inc.

County records indicate a new deed was filed in early October listing Plains Capital Bank of Dallas as the new owner.

It is unclear if there are plans to sell the facility in the near future. When contacted by phone Monday, a representative for Plains Capital said information on the facility’s status was not readily available.

The bankruptcy restructuring was conducted in the hopes of providing Sunwest investors and creditors “their best possible opportunity to recoup losses,” according to an August press release from Ham Street.

The facility in north Clovis — never completed after construction began in 2006 — stands vacant with no signs of life.

The $20 million project was supposed to feature 64 assisted living apartments, 10 retirement cottages and 24 Alzheimer’s accommodations with 24-hour nursing care and group meals available for all residents.

City Manager Joe Thomas said during the summer months the city has had to cut grass and weeds at the facility because it was not being maintained within city code requirements.

“They haven’t been taking very good care of it up until this last transaction,” he said, explaining the city has not had contact with the bank and has no knowledge of the facility’s future fate.

The property occupies a 12 1/2-acre lot just south of North Prince Street and Wilhite Road.

Construction of Wheatfields ground to a halt in 2008 and left local contractors filing liens — more than $3 million worth, some eventually paid, some not.

In October 2009, Sunwest Management was pulled into bankruptcy and the Securities and Exchange Commission — which filed a March 2009 suit against Sunwest, contractor KDA Construction and numerous others for defrauding investors — estimated that as much as $400 million in losses could be suffered by investors and creditors.

Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, said his office has gotten several calls over the last 12 months from individuals and entities interested in the facility, but they have been nothing more than research inquiries, especially with the property’s status unclear.

“It’s sad though,” he said. “That’s a beautiful piece of property.”