Harmony Place has a savior.
The Columbus shopping center left in limbo by the bankruptcy of owner Dallas-Chipley Group is now in new hands: CrossPointe Church, which occupies property at the rear of the complex, bought the retail center for about $3.5 million at auction Tuesday.
Dallas-Chipley's primary mortgage creditor, SunTrust Bank, has released the corporation from remaining claims, said Fife Whiteside, one of the attorneys representing Dallas-Chipley, which is owned by former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith Jr. and sons Vance Smith III and Georgia state Rep. Kip Smith.
Dallas-Chipley surrendered the property Sept. 20 to SunTrust, which Dallas-Chipley owed about $7 million, Whiteside said. SunTrust bundled that and other debts and sold them to an investor, IX ST Portfolio 5, which put Harmony Place up for auction Tuesday and made an initial bid of $1.5 million, before CrossPointe outbid it.
The church, which occupies about a third of the 120,500-square-foot shopping center at 2301 Airport Thruway, bought the land primarily to secure its interests in maintaining that location, gaining room for future growth and retaining adequate parking for its 600 followers, said Doug Duncan, a church leader.
He said the church wants to reserve the rear of the shopping center and sell the rest to a commercial property manager that will invest in revitalizing the retail end up front.
The church has no interest in managing that property, he said.
The nondenominational congregation moved to Harmony Place from an old Harris County schoolhouse a couple of years ago, he said.
Part of its growth has come from serving Fort Benning families, so the shopping center site just off Interstate 185 is convenient for them, he said.
Duncan, who is in real estate, said he believes the front part of Harmony Place has the potential again to become a vibrant commercial center, partly because of the traffic generated by The Landings.
Among the Harmony Place tenants is Grayhawk Homes, owned by builder Dave Erickson, who said he previously has expressed an interest in acquiring the retail center. But he doubted it was due for an immediate rebound.
"I've heard that discussion," he said of Harmony Place drawing from The Landings. "Personally, I'm a little skeptical of that. There's another 12 or 15 acres up on Veterans Parkway next to Builders First, that's been available for a really bargain price, for a long time, and nobody's grabbed it. So I'm a little skeptical that commercial's got a whole lot of potential in that area."
But it's well-suited for a real-estate firm, he said: "It's a well-located area for real-estate-related companies. You've got Kennon & Parker on Whitesville Road. You've got ReMax up there on Veterans. You've got my wife's office up there just a little bit farther north on Brookstone Parkway. Waddell's right in that area. You basically have the four leading real-estate companies within half a mile of there."