Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

Builder Update: Foothill & Towne Condo Project Moves Glacially

January 3, 2010
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Lots of cars and trucks; just nobody home yet.

Lots of cars and trucks; just nobody home yet.

When real estate prices were climbing at a double-digit pace in La Verne, it seemed that new projects, both residential and commercial, would go up overnight. Now it seems the rate of construction has been reduced to a crawl in the current economic environment.

The poster child for this new market reality might very well be Magnolia Court. For any and all who regularly travel on Foothill Blvd., it’s hard to miss the partially completed 101-unit senior citizen condominium project just east of Town Center Dr. A drive-by on Wednesday, Dec. 30, revealed plenty of trucks and cars parked outside the construction site. Much more difficult to determine was the tempo of building activity taking place.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

“The project, while certainly proceeding at a snail’s pace, is nonetheless still in active construction,” said Hal Fredericksen, Community Development Director for the City of La Verne. “I walked the job myself two weeks ago with the City’s building inspector and the job superintendent from the development company Hsientien Development (pronounced ‘sin-tin’).

“The project,” Fredericksen added, “does not appear to be out of money; we believe it is largely financed with Asian capital. The developer has made good on all permit and impact fee payments to the City.”

Fredericksen’s surmises Hsientien is moving methodically with the current demand for senior housing.

“My perception is that Hsientien has, and is continuing to, slow the construction so as to better coincide with a hoped-for improvement to the housing sales market,” Fredericksen said. “This type of project is heavily dependent upon sales to ’empty nesters’ with recently obtained equity cash from the sale of their single-family homes. With the real estate market so slow, there are relatively few of these buyers at present.”

New units could go on the market in late spring.

New units could go on the market in late spring.

Meanwhile, many, if not all the units, have been exposed to the weather — the intense sun of summer and now the wind and rain of winter. Tiles have sat on rooftops for at least six months, and the structures, according to one frequent citizen observer, have not been wrapped for plastering or siding. Consequently, there are concerns by both the public and the city of La Verne that project delays could degrade or compromise work already completed.

“The City is requiring testing analysis on many of the project’s aging construction components (e.g. lumber, roof paper, drywall, any potential mold issues, etc),” Fredericksen said. “Any of these components not meeting building code standards will be required to be replaced, and Hsientien is in agreement with this requirement.”

Despite the plodding pace of construction, Fredericksen noted that Hsientien has a target completion date of late spring 2010 for the project.

Fredericksen thinks the end product will have justified the wait.

“I believe it will be a quality housing option for seniors in La Verne once it is complete,” Fredericksen said.

“Of course, we will continue to inspect and evaluate the project and its construction to ensure that quality and health/safety are assured.”

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