Foreclosure washes away water park plans in Fishers

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Lender Fifth Third Bank has taken ownership of a high-profile piece of land in Fishers, ending a developer’s plans to build a hotel and water park on the site.

Paradise Bay was to have been constructed 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, included plans for a 16-acre water park and 244-room Wyndham Hotel within Fishers Marketplace, a mix of shops, restaurants and offices.

The local office of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third began proceedings to foreclose on the property in July 2009 and attempted to collect nearly $8.6 million owed on the balance of a loan it gave to Puller and H2o Resorts II LLC, an entity formed to develop the hotel and water park.

On Tuesday, the latest hearing on the matter in Hamilton Superior Court was canceled after the Puller Group finally relented on its months-long battle to retain ownership of the land.

Calls to the developer were not returned. But its attorney, Bill Wendling, said his client, considering the difficult commercial real estate environment, was pleased with the foreclosure agreement.

A spokeswoman for Fifth Third said it has “no solidified plans on how the land will be utilized at this time.”

Fifth Third’s decision to foreclose on the property follows similar actions taken by Evansville-based Old National Bank to foreclose on land adjoining Fifth Third’s property.

The 104-acre Fishers Marketplace was to be built on both parcels. Old National owns the southern half and Fifth Third the northern half.

Old National purchased local developer Skjodt Thomas’ piece in December 2009 for $5.9 million during a sheriff’s sale. It since has started infrastructure work on the property to make it more attractive for development.

The bank has hired Thompson Thrift Development Inc. to develop the land and install roads and sewers, which should be finished by April, said Steve McGlothlin, Old National executive vice president.

He said the bank already has received about a half-dozen calls from companies interested in building on the property.

“They’re nothing definitive but they’re beyond speculative,” McGlothlin said of the amount of interest.

Fishers attorney Doug Church said he remains confident the land will eventually be developed. “We continue to see things [developed] up and down that corridor,” he said, “so there’s no reason to think it’s not going to continue.”

Britton Golf Course was built by late Fishers businessman A.W. "Mac" Reynolds in 1986 and sold for about $16 million in 2005. Skjodt Thomas, which purchased the former golf course property and sold 57 acres to Puller Group, had planned to develop its parcel under the Britton Park Development LLC name, with the infrastructure serving both sides.

Work stopped in the summer of 2008 after Britton Park failed to repay a $12.3 million loan it received from Old National, according to a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the lender.

Skjodt Thomas co-owner Paul 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 2009.

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