Gold Hill Mesa buys back Laing lots that were in bankruptcy

       More than 50 bankruptcy-orphaned properties at Gold Hill Mesa have returned to the development's fold.

Former John Laing Homes properties - some planned for single-family homes, some for multi-family - are identified with an "L" in the Gold Hill Mesa Filing 1 plat map. Work is already starting on some former Laing properties that were partially completed before the company's 2008 bankruptcy. Unmarked lots are those in Filing 1 that Laing previously built on, those belonging to other builders or that have not yet been purchased from Gold Hill Mesa Partners.
Courtesy of Gold Hill Mesa; edited for publication by Westside Pioneer

       Following a long-awaited court ruling and bank decision, the Gold Hill Mesa Partners last month bought back 44 unbuilt John Laing Homes lots and 14 that were in different stages of construction when the once-nationally respected builder went out of business in 2008.
       For the 210-acre, mostly residential development off Lower Gold Camp Road and 21st Street, the business action ensures continuity of the traditional neighborhood style its owners have presented since construction began in 2006.
       “It's like a huge weight off our backs,” said Bob Willard of Gold Hill Mesa Partners. “It allows us to proceed with the community as we originally envisoned. One of our fears was that some bank or developer from New York City that didn't understand what we were doing would wind up amongst us. Being able to keep the vision intact is important to us and to the Westside.”
       The initial legal rulings came out of a California Superior Court, with a plan to dispose of Laing's Colorado holdings issued by the District Court of Douglas County. Regarding Laing's lots at Gold Hill Mesa, the Wachovia Bank sought bids for their purchase. Gold Hill Mesa Partners, which initiated and owns the development, was one of three that entered the bidding, and was chosen by the bank, Willard explained.
       “It was all very secretive,” Willard said. He declined to reveal the Gold Hill bid amount, but noted that it was less than what Laing had initially paid for the lots (because of the bankruptcy situation) yet “probably more than people unrelated to the development would pay.” The bank may have been reassured that “as part of our offer, we offered to indemnify the bank on all environmental issues,” Willard added.
       The whole episode was chaotic for Gold Hill Mesa Partners and himself personally. He was on vacation when informed about the bidding schedule. “I was on a floating ship in Canada, and had to pull it together on a cell phone,” Willard said, with a wry laugh.
       The Laing lots are sprinkled throughout Gold Hill's 27-acre Filing 1, which includes a community center and is well over halfway to its allowed maximum of 168 homes (single-family as well as attached units). Originally, Laing was Filing 1's only builder, having constructed (and sold) 62 units before its bankruptcy. Other builders - Challenger, Creekstone and J.M. Weston - have since come on board, offering different types of home designs on single-family or attached homes that have been built or are under construction. To date, these three have bought a total of 25 lots from Gold Hill Mesa Partners, including a few in Filing 2.
       The problem with the Laing bankruptcy was that it froze all its projects right where they were. Along with the 44 vacant lots were six buildings that only had foundations, four that were partially built and four that were finished but couldn't be sold because of the legal action, Willard said.
       Now that the Gold Hill ownership has the lots again, the focus will be on finishing Filing 1. The only reason Filing 2 (just west of Filing 1) had been started was because of the Laing situation, Willard said.
       The Filing 1 area is bordered by Lower Gold Camp on the south, the Crown Hill Mesa subdivision on the east, Gold Hill Mesa Drive/Solitude Street on the north and Eclipse Drive on the west.

The view northwest from Lower Gold Camp Road near Raven Mine Drive (in a photo taken last summer) shows some open areas including lots at left that were frozen by the John Laing Homes bankruptcy.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Although Gold Hill Mesa only began building 4 years ago, the project has required a total of 13 years in preparation because of environmental issues, primarily those related to the potentially toxic tailings left behind by the Golden Cycle gold mill, which processed gold ore there during the first half of the 20th century.

Westside Pioneer article