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The owner of Berkeley Place shopping center in Bluffton -- home to Sea Turtle Cinemas -- defaulted on a $23.5 million loan, and foreclosure proceedings are under way, according to Beaufort County court records. Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen of Beaufort County appointed Faison & Associates, a Charlotte commercial real estate firm, to run the center last week after Wells Fargo Bank began foreclosure proceedings against Sea Turtle Entertainment, the shopping center's owner.
Mullen directed Faison to sell the property off Buckwalter Parkway, pending approval from the bank and the court.
Wells Fargo says Sea Turtle owes more than $27.3 million, plus interest accruing at a rate of more than $6,700 per day, according to a complaint filed May 15.
Sea Turtle, which took out the loan in June 2007, has failed to make monthly payments of more than $155,000 since September, the bank says.
The bank says it wants the property sold to pay off the debt.
The bank also asks the court to give its claim priority over claims by Gochnauer Mechanical, a Hilton Head Island heating and air conditioning firm that seeks payment for work on the property.In another case against Sea Turtle, Judge Mullen has granted the Charleston law firm of Steven Crawford & Associates a judgment of more than $47,000 it says Sea Turtle owes for "procuring Outback Steakhouse as a commercial tenant" in the shopping center.
"We are working on a solution," Lori Kaylor of Beaufort County, managing partner of Sea Turtle, said Wednesday when asked about the court proceedings.
She declined to elaborate.
A lawyer for the bank, James Pulliam of the Charlotte firm Kilpatrick Stockton, declinedcomment.
A lawyer for Sea Turtle, Brad Wolfe of the Atlanta firm Slutzky, Wolfe and Bailey, could not be reached Wednesday.
Faison officials also could not be reached.
Several tenants said they are optimistic new management could improve business at the center.
Brent Middlebrook, owner of Cheeburger Cheeburger, said he hopes the center will benefit from the professional expertise of Faison, which manages 28 retail properties in the Carolinas.
"I think it's a good thing," Middlebrook said. "They've got a company that does it all the time."
Celeste Delaplane, owner of The Candy Corner, said she hopes Faison will improve the landscaping in the center's common area and bring back bands that once performed there.
"Just a little sprucing up would help," she said.
The 45,000-square-foot, 12-screen theater and an accompanying 145,000 square feet of retail and commercial space opened in November 2005 after several delays.
The project was announced in December 2002 and was expected to open a year later.