Group buys Village at River’s Edge before foreclosure auction is held

The property at the partially completed residential project called Village at River’s Edge in north Columbia has been taken over by a private group, a lawyer for the bank that held a note on the property said Thursday.

The lawyer, Cliff Moore of Columbia, said he could not disclose the identity of the group that paid off the loan – which records say was some $1.4 million-plus – because disclosure is that group’s prerogative. Moore represented NBSC, a division of Synovus Bank, which held the note. The property was to have been sold at foreclosure Tuesday, but the note was paid off before it was sold at auction, Moore said.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin had been listed as a debtor on the property. Benjamin and the other noteholders are now free of any debt, Moore said.

Benjamin – who as a private developer promoted the property as early as 2006 for residential use – sold his interest in 2009 before running for mayor but was still listed as a debtor for legal purposes. At that time, it was still undeveloped.

Today, there are more than 50 public housing units on a portion of the site controlled by the Columbia Housing Authority. Acreage where the original developers hoped to put 150 private units remains undeveloped. More than $11 million in taxpayer money has been used to build roads and other infrastructure on the 28-acre property.

Michael Wukela, a spokesman for the mayor, said Thursday: “Our understanding is that the property has been sold. As a practical matter, the mayor has not had any interest in the property since 2009.”

From Staff Reports