Camp Bowie shopping center owner might be forced into foreclosure

The owner of the Village at Camp Bowie shopping center in Fort Worth's bustling Ridglea neighborhood said he may be forced to file for bankruptcy in the next two weeks to stave off a pending foreclosure from a lender that wants to clear the loan from its books.

David Burgher is a principal in Dallas-based Trophy Investments, which six years ago bought the west Fort Worth shopping center that is simply known by its address -- 6333 Camp Bowie -- and whose tenants include Hedary's, Baker Street Pub and Grill, and Stanley Eisenman Shoes. Burgher said he's been told by Wachovia Bank that it wants payment on the $36.5 million loan that matured this month.

Because the owners have been unable to do so, Wachovia this week posted the property for the April 6 auction.

Burgher said his firm is not in arrears, having made every payment on time since it borrowed the money to buy the center in January 2004. He said it has tried to refinance the loan with the bank since November.

"We've obviously been talking to our lender," Burgher said. "We've asked them to extend the loan. Lenders don't want to make loans right now."

Wachovia spokesman Joe Stroop said Thursday that details of the negotiations the bank has had with the borrower are confidential. But, Stroop said, "I can tell you that we have been in discussion for a number of months to resolve this matter and have presented the borrower with an option to settle this debt which would avoid foreclosure."

What has happened to Burgher's group is becoming more common in today's economic climate as banks struggle with commercial real estate-related losses.

A year ago, a Dallas real estate company lost the Overton Centre office building in southwest Fort Worth in a foreclosure to a lender that had taken over the note in a merger and then called it, even though the owner was current.

Banks nationwide are trying to reduce their debt exposure, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report Thursday.

The $3.4 trillion in commercial and multifamily mortgage debt outstanding recorded by the Federal Reserve in the fourth quarter was $58 billion lower than the third-quarter figure, the group said.

"Payoffs and pay-downs of outstanding mortgages are exceeding new originations," Jamie Woodwell, the association's vice president of commercial real estate research, said in the report.

Wachovia didn't originate the loan on the Village at Camp Bowie. A portion, $26.5 million, originated with SouthTrust Bank, and $10 million with Texas Capital Bank, deed records show. SouthTrust merged with Wachovia Bank in November 2004. Wachovia is now a Wells Fargo company.

The center has 282,125 square feet of space on 21 acres along Camp Bowie Boulevard, between Winthrop Avenue and Bernie Anderson Avenue, and Waverly Way, as well as a strip on the north side of Camp Bowie at Westridge Avenue.

The remodeled shopping center has 64 tenants. Since January, Trophy Investments has leased 30,000 square feet and will soon lease another 15,000 square feet, which will bring the center to about 80 percent occupancy, Burgher said.

SANDRA BAKER, 817-390-7727