Monday, October 20, 2008

Some news on a Monday morning

A couple of news items worth noting on this Monday morning. Some of you may have seen an article in the Bee this morning about two Patterson men who were shot in Modesto late Saturday night. Our reporter, John Saiz, has tracked down the victims' names.

Stephen Grant, 24, and Maurice Schroder, 22, were the victims of the shooting. Both are African-American. No word yet on their condition, but we're hoping to have that soon. Grant apparently suffered the more significant injuries of the two.

Also, I just got off the phone with George Logan, Patterson's city attorney. There were two motions that were supposed to be heard Thursday at the Fresno Superior Court regarding the city's lawsuit against West Park, but Logan says both were continued to Nov. 6.

One of the motions, brought by Union Pacific Railroad, claims that because Union Pacific has not been involved in any negotiations with Stanislaus County regarding the short-haul rail needed for the West Park project, it should not be included in the lawsuit. Logan says the county is on record with the California Transportation Commission saying that it is, in fact, in negotiations with Union Pacific. Then again, the CTC is still waiting for an agreement between the county and the railroad company. That could mean there really aren't any negotiations going on or they're just really not going well.

The other motion — the biggie — is the one brought by PCCP West Park and Stanislaus County that is seeking to have the case dismissed. That one had already been continued prior to Thursday, but Judge Tyler Tharpe decided to push both of them back and handle them both in one hearing on Nov. 6.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SOLD! Diablo Grande deal finally done

It only took seven months in bankruptcy court and five days past the expected sale date, but the Diablo Grande deal is finally done. World International LLC has acquired the property, according to a press release from Laurus Corporation. Here's a brief article I just wrote for the Web (it won't appear in Wednesday's Irrigator because the announcement came after our deadline). I'll have much more in Saturday's paper.

In case you're curious (and judging by the number of e-mails I've received over the past two days, many of you are), I've pasted below the full, unedited text of the press release put out by Laurus, a real estate development company that served as World's negotiator throughout the purchase of Diablo Grande.

So, Diablo residents, how do you feel about all this? Are you optimistic that some of this stuff might really get done this time, or will you treat these all like empty promises until they actually come true?

Laurus Corporation Negotiates Acquisition of Diablo Grande to World International

Los Angeles, CA – October 7, 2008 – Laurus Corporation (“Laurus”) is pleased to announce that it has successfully negotiated the acquisition of the master planned development known as Diablo Grande to World International, LLC (“World”).

Located in California’s growing Central Valley, Diablo Grande is a residential and resort golf community of approximately 30,000 acres. The historic ranch's location is 80 miles east of San Francisco and 25 miles west of Modesto, and is approximately one and one-half times the size of Manhattan.

The current development plan encompasses the entire acreage with Phase I development already well underway with 2,100 lots, subdivisions, and basic infrastructure which includes access roads, water treatment plant and other basic services (sewage, electricity, etc.) as well as two tournament-caliber golf courses designed by Denis Griffiths and Jack Nicklaus/Gene Sarazen. Nearly 1,000 lots have already sold with several hundred residences already built.  "I am pleased that World International, LLC is purchasing the property," said Donald  Panoz, Diablo Grande's founder.  "I know that the Principals will move forward to make the development a success and will follow through on our vision that started 20 years ago - to make this the best development in California."

World International LLC was formed as an investment vehicle to acquire and develop the property. The partners behind World have over 60 years of real estate development experience through a variety of entities and corporations, and their portfolio of holdings includes resorts, office buildings, shopping centers, and residential developments.

New ownership’s plan is to rename the development - giving the property a fresh start, seeking inspiration from the surrounding beauty and its Californian heritage. The vision for the continued development is a resort-style life where casual elegance, with a focus on wellness, is emphasized. A place where nature and open space artfully combine to create the ultimate in luxury living.

Anchored by a 5-star, amenity driven resort, spa and convention center, the low-density community will have Spanish-colonial villas, townhouses, and single family residences gently placed in large lots within a tranquil secluded atmosphere, equestrian center, bike trails and its own vineyard. A new country club will be added to enhance the golf course, and an additional Residence Club membership will be offered by the resort to enable homeowners to benefit from the countless outdoor activities available. A specialty Spanish-style low-rise shopping village with a grocery store, dining alternatives, banking services, café and office suites will serve the community.

World International, in a joint effort with Laurus Corporation, will be developing the property as soon as a master plan is complete and the various development phases revised. The developers hope to reach out to the existing community, City and County to work in tandem, taking in their comments and ideas. Additionally, the Company plans to actively explore joint ventures and strategic alliances with recognized home developers and other parties that fit the strategic plan for the property in order to successfully achieve the goals laid out for the new Diablo Grande.

Laurus Corporation is a boutique style domestic and international real estate development company that specializes in full service luxury hotels and resorts, master plan communities, mixed-use properties and multifamily. The Company coordinates activities, converting ideas from paper into real property. It creates, manages and orchestrates key partnerships while assembling the process of development from beginning to end.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No Diablo Grande sale yet

I'm still pretty sure there's nothing to worry about, but Diablo Grande's sale still hasn't closed and probably won't until Monday.

The secretary for Dwain Sanders, Diablo Grande's vice president of development, said this morning she was still doing paperwork for the sale and that it would happen late this afternoon at the earliest. Craig Stewart, Diablo Grande's real estate agent for the sale, indicated it would likely be Monday. I'll have a full story in Saturday's paper, though if news breaks in the next hour that the sale closed, that would not be reflected in Saturday's story.

Let the waiting continue ...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Diablo Grande sale might not close today

Oct. 2 has been the date circled on the calendars of most Diablo Grande residents and followers for the last three weeks or so as the day Diablo Grande's sale to World International was expected to close.

The closing of the sale was put off in part because World International needed time to complete a study of the water situation (the results of which did not cause the buyer to back out). But it could only be put off for so long, because the bankrupt golf resort and housing development only had enough money to continue operating through that date — and, of course, the money Diablo Grande is now operating with now came via what are called debtor-in-possession loans. Hopefully a little of that money is still in the bank.

Because here we are, just past midday on the day we've all been waiting for, and so far, there's no sale. And while there might not be a sale today, it really, truly sounds like there's nothing to worry about. The last major hurdle facing this sale was cleared Wednesday at a hearing in Modesto, and at this point, I'm told, all that's left is the paperwork.

Craig Stewart, a real estate agent with Marcus & Millichap's San Diego office, is handling the Diablo Grande sale. I spoke with him about an hour ago, and he said his understanding is that the sale will close Friday. He said all that's left is to cross some t's, dot some i's — and, of course, get some money from World International.

"We have (a non-refundable $500,000 deposit), but the buyer could always decide to forfeit that money and walk away," Stewart said. "Until the money is deposited in the escrow account, it's not a done deal."

More to come (but maybe not till tomorrow).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Diablo Grande clears final(?) hurdle

By all accounts, Diablo Grande today cleared the final hurdle in its sale to World International LLC. At a hearing at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Modesto, Judge Robert S. Bardwil offered no opposition (nor did any of the parties involved) to a motion brought by Diablo Grande to amend the purchase agreement to include the transfer to the Western Hills Water District rights and equipment for groundwater pumping from a piece of land south of Patterson that is being excluded from the sale. For a more detailed description of the changes to the agreement, read my article from today's paper.

With that settled, it appears everything is on track for the sale to close Thursday. The ever-elusive Dwain Sanders, Diablo Grande's vice president of development, said as much following today's hearing. Sanders declined to comment on the sale itself, saying the buyer had requested he not speak to the media until the sale closes, but he did say a press release should be distributed once the sale closes. Hopefully I'll be able to get a comment from him them.

It remains to be seen what World International plans to do with Diablo Grande, but its history suggests it will continue with some version of the original plans for a resort hotel. The few residents I've spoken to about this seem to be optimistic. I am curious how other residents view this sale. Is this cause for celebration? Or are you in wait-and-see mode? Feel free to leave comments below.