Liberty Square shopping center in Evans faces foreclosure, several tenants of the building were shocked to learn.
"I'm sort of stunned," said MAC Electronics owner Leon Marriott, who has leased his store for more than three years. "This is news to me. We'd expect at least an e-mail."
Liberty Square's owner, Florida-based The Williamson Group, purchased the shopping center across from the Evans Walmart for about $6.3 million in 2006, according to county records.
Four foreclosure advertisements regarding Liberty Square ran in The Columbia County News-Times this month.
The original debt amount was about $5 million, which likely has changed, said William Rothschild, an attorney at Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan. His firm represents Centerline Servicing, the corporation collecting the payment.
"I honestly don't know what the outstanding balance is as of today," he said last week.
The loan initially was made by Morgan Stanley Mortgage Capital Inc., Rothschild said. It's now held by Wells Fargo Bank as the trustee for Morgan Stanley Capital 1 Inc.
Attempts to reach representatives of The Williamson Group were redirected to The Frank Pesce Group, the company that manages the property. President Donna Murray said she did not want to comment.
Joe Edge, the president and broker of Augusta's Sherman and Hemstreet, handles leasings within the shopping center.
"It's really a shame," he said. "It's one of the nicest centers in Augusta.
"I think it was worth about $6.5 million a couple of years ago. Frankly, if the bank takes it back, it's probably going to sell for $2.5 to $3 (million) I think."
The property is scheduled for auction Tuesday at the Appling courthouse.
There has been some negotiation between the owner and bank, Edge said.
"As far as what they were negotiating or the feasibility of something actually being approved, I have no idea," he said.
Rothschild said he hasn't been informed of any resolution.
"As far as I know, they are still advertising for the foreclosure on the first Tuesday in February," he said.
The nearly five-acre piece of property is valued at more than $4.7 million, according to county records.
Eight businesses, including the restaurants Goolsby's and Augsburg Haus, occupy spots in the shopping center.
Another business owner, Christina Center, said the possibility of foreclosure was news to her.
Her bakery, Simply Sweet Bakery, has been in the Evans shopping center for six months.
"It's just scary," she said.
"This is my first business and I've put all my money into this."
Regardless of what happens with the foreclosure, Edge said, the tenants don't need to worry about being forced to vacate their stores.
"Their leases are good," he said. "Somebody will buy the center and, of course, they're going to want those folks there."
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