Carmel and Buckingham Cos. and Real Estate & Retail

Housing slump puts Gramercy project in Carmel on hold:

February 25, 2008

The deteriorating housing market and Carmel's plans to build more roundabouts have led The Buckingham Cos. to put the brakes on its ambitious Gramercy development project.

The $500 million project set to begin in the spring now has no timetable. But when construction ultimately commences, it likely will begin with the commercial and retail portions rather than the home-building portion, as was originally planned, said Clyde Lee, a spokesman for the local developer.

"They have revised the plans," Lee said. "A mixed-use development gives you some latitude in how you're going to develop it."

Gramercy could take a decade to complete and would transform the 1960s-era Mohawk Hills apartment complex and its golf course into a modern urbanist neighborhood.

The 116-acre tract at 126th Street and Keystone Avenue would play a critical role in advancing Carmel's vision to create a new downtown along Range Line Road by providing an eastern corridor into Old Town.

Carmel's plans to assume control of parts of Keystone Avenue from the state and put six roundabouts on the roadway also have affected Buckingham's decision to delay the project. The roundabout at 126th Street could take up to 18 months and would need to be completed before construction on Gramercy begins. Contractors could be selected in April.

Buckingham purchased the property containing 564 apartment units and a ninehole golf course in 2004 from a Chicago group for roughly $30 million. The first phase was to include 150 to 200 homes.

The traditional urban neighborhood design features more than 2,000 condos, town homes and apartments. Hotels, offices, civic spaces, parks and retail space for restaurants, cafes or coffee shops also are included.

Complaints from citizens concerned about the massive development's impact on local roads and traffic led Mayor James Brainard in late 2006 to negotiate a 26-percent reduction in its scale.

Buckingham in December 2007 purchased The Fountains Banquet & Conference Center and the surrounding retail center on Carmel Drive south of Mohawk Hills to provide access from Carmel Drive to 126th Street, Lee said.

"They have committed millions of dollars and purchased more property," Lee said of Buckingham. "They don't want to stop it."

When finished, Gramercy would complement the public/private development that is City Center. It runs along the west side of Range Line between 123rd and 127th streets and encompasses a number of uses. Similar to Gramercy, they range from apartments, condominiums, shops, dining, office and hotel.
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