Fishers water park developer hopeful despite setback

October 15, 2009

The developer of a proposed hotel and water park in Fishers remains optimistic the project will get finished, despite the latest setback delaying the start of construction by at least two years.

Paradise Bay is set to be built on the former Britton Golf Course site at State Road 37 and East 131st Street. The $80 million project, led by Indianapolis-based Puller Group, includes plans for a 16-acre water park and 244-room Wyndham Hotel within Fishers Marketplace, a mix of shops, restaurants and offices.

But Old National Bank recently foreclosed on half of the 104-acre site and is set to sell the parcel along 131st Street on the property’s south side at auction on Oct. 22.

Indianapolis developer Skjodt Thomas & Associates, which purchased the former golf course property and sold 57 acres to Puller Group, owns the tract that has been foreclosed upon.

Still, Puller Group CEO Kenneth Puller is hopeful the water park project can continue, despite the legal wrangling that has pushed back construction.

“We’ve been very patient,” he said. “Now it’s come to a head, I think.”

The property that will be sold at auction is important to the water park project because of unfinished infrastructure involving a sewer system that Skjodt Thomas was to install.

Skjodt Thomas had planned to develop its parcel under the Britton Park Development LLC name, with the infrastructure serving both sites. Work stopped in the summer of 2008, after Britton Park failed to repay a $12.3 million loan it received from Old National Bank, according a lawsuit filed last year by the Evansville-based lender.

Skjodt Thomas co-owner Paul Skjodt could not be reached for comment Thursday morning. Skjodt is the owner of the Indiana Ice and the son-in-law of former Indiana Pacers co-owner Melvin Simon, who died in September.

Britton Park Development still owes $10.4 million, according to court documents. The bank hopes a sale can satisfy the debt, or at least part of it.

There’s no doubt the property can fetch seven figures at auction, said Brian Mann, managing partner of Indianapolis-based Mann Properties, which has developments in Fishers. But a $10-million sale price could be difficult, particularly given the current economic conditions, he said.

“We’re not terribly interested in land speculation at this point, and I can’t imagine a lot of real estate developers would be,” Mann said. “You’re trying to protect what you’ve got.”

Besides the price of the land, a buyer would need to invest in the necessary infrastructure, which Puller admitted could “scare off” potential developers.

Puller said his firm may pay the additional expense of about $800,000 to complete the sewer connection, which is integral to his project, but is reluctant to do so because of the cost.

Steve Delaney, a partner with Sitehawk Retail Real Estate in Indianapolis, is the leasing agent for the property. He said some retailers remain interested in locating there, despite the months of inaction. 

The stretch of State Road 37 between Noblesville and Fishers has attracted several retailers and restaurants in recent years.


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