Opus South bankruptcy blow to elite condos
Wake up and good morning. Opus South, the powerhouse developer of Tampa Bay properties ranging from St. Petersburg's new, high-end 400 Beach Drive (in first photo) and nearby Parkshore Plaza (in second photo) condo properties to the established 4200 Cypress office in Tampa's Westshore District, sought voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy to get its debts under control.
The bad news? Opus South plans to eventually exit the market.
"We are going to keep our offices open while we work through the Chapter 11, but our plans are to exit the market completely, company spokesman Winston Hewett told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Opus South's strong reputation clearly masked financial pressures in this recession and is once again a sad reminder: Nobody is safe from this economy. And given Opus South's dominating inventory of high-end condos on St. Petersburg's waterfront row of condo towers, the bankruptcy raises fresh concern about the crush of neighboring towers -- others are still under construction or just opening -- offering units averaging $700,000 and up.
"The Opus South portfolio includes a large number of condominium projects located in Florida, and has been particularly challenged by the sharp downturn in that portion of the regional real estate market," said Mark Rauenhorst, CEO of Minnesota-based parent Opus Corp. Only Opus South Corp., based in Atlanta and one of five independent operating companies that make up the Opus Group, is included in the bankruptcy filing. Here's the company's announcement.
Opus South chief restructuring officer Anne Marie Solberg said bankruptcy was caused by the continued deterioration in economic conditions in the commercial and residential real estate markets in the Southeast. In Clearwater, for example, Opus South developed Water's Edge, a 25-story condo tower next to city hall. But financial concerns emerged last year, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times, about residents moving in just as the stock market began to tank. (Photo of Water's Edge penthouse view by Jim Damaske of the St. Petersburg Times.)
Solberg added: “While we began slowing the pace of new development nearly two years ago in anticipation of difficult market conditions, we must now take additional measures to enable an orderly wind down of our portfolio, protect asset values and maximize returns on lenders’ investments.”
Solberg said Opus South will currently maintain operations in Atlanta and Tampa to work on asset dispositions and transitions. Rauenhorst called the challenges in the industry as difficult as the company has ever experienced in its 56 years in the business. Opus South has developed more than 27.3 million square feet of space since starting operations in 1981. This is a nasty blow for the Tampa Bay area economy, folks.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist