Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sweetwater suspends operations in Hailey

Developer blames national housing and credit crisis

Express Staff Writer

After completing only 49 units in a planned 421-unit development in Woodside, Sweetwater developer J. Kevin Adams has suspended operations on the $200 million project.

The largest planned residential development in Blaine County's history came to a halt yesterday when Tennessee developer J. Kevin Adams suspended operations on Sweetwater Community, a 421-unit development in the Woodside subdivision of Hailey.

In a prepared statement issued Tuesday, Adams cited the national financial crisis and falling housing market as factors in his decision. The statement said the developer has decided to suspend operations to "reassess all aspects of the project including sales, pricing of the units and future construction."

Sweetwater is a partly built, $200 million development on 20 acres of land straddling Countryside Boulevard in Woodside. Final plans call for commercial and retail space, a shared hall with a big-screen movie room, outdoor pool and a grassy park. Additionally, Sweetwater had plans for a concierge service that organizes mountain guides and fly-fishing excursions.

"No one is doing anything out there right now," Adams said. "It doesn't mater what the square footage price is, people can't get financing. And it is difficult to establish comparable pricing for the Sweetwater units."

Adams said his cost to date on the project is $48 million.

"We are committed to seeing this project through, but right now we have to wait," he said.

Only 49 town home units have been completed since Adams purchased the property in 2005. None of those units has sold, despite recent publicity activities featuring local artists and a firefighter fundraiser.

Three years ago, Adams exchanged property on River Street for several key parcels in the project owned by the city of Hailey. The city hoped to gain 40 affordable housing units when Sweetwater was done.

Adams said recording of final plat approval for the development was stalled in recent months due to changes the city requested in deed-restricted units associated with the development. He also said a final payment is due to the city for final plat approval.

Adams has plans to meet with Hailey City Administrator Heather Dawson this week or next to discuss the future of Sweetwater.

Hailey Mayor Rick Davis seemed dismayed but not surprised on Tuesday by Adams' decision to suspend operations.

"With the stock market taking the biggest fall since God knows when yesterday, there's a lot of people pulling out of deals. It's pretty ugly out there."

While advertising and sales efforts on the Sweetwater project have been suspended, model units and tours will remain available for potential buyers.

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