Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Regional Report Western January 2009


Woods helps project stay out of the rough

Even with golfer Tiger Woods involved, selling high-dollar real estate might seem like a long shot these days. With many potential buyers’ finances in the rough, The Cliffs at High Carolina wants $500,000 to $3 million for a chance to play regularly on the golf course he’s designing. But many have. Executives of the development east of Asheville say the Woods connection could explain why, a month after its formal opening in November, they had sold 42 of 67 developed lots not long after a similar mountain project — Laurelmor (cover story, August) — had shut down.

The Cliffs lots fetched more than $40 million. Buyers have come from California, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas and elsewhere. “If Tiger Woods is going to put his first golf course in America here, buyers knew he’d already done some homework,” says Scott Beville, executive vice president of The Cliffs Communities Inc., based in Travelers Rest, S.C. “They don’t have to trust us because we say it’s going to be nice.”

The 3,200-acre development in Buncombe County will have about 1,000 lots when finished in four to five years. The golf course will be done in late 2010. But Beville concedes that in a recession The Cliffs faces an uphill climb. “There are fewer buyers in today’s marketplace, but the ones that are there are more astute. They’re going to scrutinize the community and the company building it a lot more than they might have four or five years ago.”

That might have happened in Watauga and Wilkes counties with Laurelmor. A project of Celebration, Fla.-based Ginn Resorts Co., it suspended sales and construction in September, having sold just 200 of 2,500 lots. Some potential buyers reneged on nonbinding agreements. Beville says The Cliffs’ sales have been backed with deposits. “We’ve already closed on a number of properties. It’s hard money.”

Besides, Beville says Cliffs Communities, formed in 1991, is no stranger to selling high-end property in hard times. “We’ve had the chance to see 9/11, the Gulf War and the original real-estate market crash, so we’ve dealt with adversity before.”

FOREST CITY — Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Eaton Hydraulics temporarily laid off about 55 of its 198 employees at its Eaton Aeroquip plant during the final six weeks of 2008. It makes hydraulic systems for vehicles.

HENDERSONVILLEPardee Hospital officials reported bad debt increased 6% to about $22 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That’s an improvement from the previous year, when it increased 40%. The hospital increased efforts to collect bills upfront.

MORGANTON — Citing poor business conditions, Valdese Weavers laid off about 60 of 800 employees. The company, part of Hickory-based CV Industries, makes fabric for furniture.

HILDEBRANAdden Furniture, which makes furniture for colleges, the military and hospitals, laid off 20 of 150 employees. The Lowell, Ma.-based company blamed seasonal fluctuations in demand.

FLETCHERVanir Solar Construction Co. has launched a $2.4 million solar heating and cooling project. Formerly Appalachian Solar Energy, the company was acquired in October by Vanir Energy of Sacramento, Calif. The project will include construction of 640 solar panels.

ASHEVILLE — Tourism during the fall leaf season lagged in Buncombe County. Hotel occupancy in September was down 13%, with experts blaming the poor economy and a regional gas shortage.

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