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Work stopped on High Street condo project

Construction has halted at The Mark Lofts at Woodland Park as the $8 million condominium project nears completion at East High Street and Woodland Avenue.

“We are working through some issues and hope to continue construction of The Mark Lofts soon,” the project's developer, Tribecca Development LLC, said Wednesday in a written statement.

“Despite the downturn in the economy and the depressed real estate and lending markets, we are hopeful that The Mark can be completed and that all units will be sold,” the developer said.

The project is 75 percent to 80 percent complete, Tribecca said, “and we are in the midst of discussions with the various parties involved with the project to resolve all issues.”

At least five liens have been placed on the property by contractors who say they are owed a total of $210,518 for labor and materials, according to filings at the Fayette County Clerk's office.

The scenario worries some of the project's neighbors, said John Michler, president of the Aylesford Place Neighborhood Association.

If the condo project fails, he said, the building could be sold as rental property to an out-of-town buyer who might not keep the building repaired and attractive.

“Once they get it built, anything can happen,” Michler said. “In this case, it looks like it falls into the anything-can-happen department.”

“I hope this isn't a foreshadowing of any of these other (condo) developments downtown,” he said.

A check of about 10 other downtown condo projects by a Herald-Leader reporter found no similar problems. Most of the other projects are built or, like The Mark, very near completion, but all appear to have vacant units.

Developers have said the nation's sluggish economy and slumping real estate markets have meant slower-than-expected sales of condos that often cost $170,000 to $500,000.

Those near the University of Kentucky and are targeted at that market can cost $100,000 or less.

The Mark is only a couple of blocks from UK, but it is not aimed at the student market. Announced prices range from $227,000 to $540,000 each.

In April, Rob Parker, a partner in Tribecca, said Lexington condo developers were being battered by economic forces they couldn't control.

“Everybody is running scared,” he told the Herald-Leader. “The economy is hurting everybody.”

Central Bank and Trust Co., the lender on the project, declined to comment.

Tribecca had sold 18 of The Mark's 36 units, Parker said in April, but it is not known how many more units were sold after that.

The first floor of the five-story building is to have offices and commercial space.

Fitness Together, which operates upscale personal training centers, said in mid-2007 that it would open a center at The Mark in January 2008, but it did not happen. The Chattanooga company did not return calls about the delayed opening.

The Mark was built on the site of the former Faith Covenant Church, which was demolished in June 2006 after the congregation sold the property to Tribecca for $1.3 million. Construction of The Mark began in September 2006.

Michler said neighborhood residents had “mixed feelings” about the project. Some disliked the design of the proposed building. Others feared increased traffic and potential parking problems. Many dreaded the uncertainty that would come if the project failed, he said.

“We are concerned about it now,” he said, “but there's absolutely nothing we can do as a neighborhood.”