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Parts of Vickery Village to be sold
Hedgewood's money woes lead to south Forsyth foreclosures
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Forsyth County News

Foreclosure proceedings have begun on about 19 parcels of land totaling an estimated $44 million in three major Forsyth County developments.

Part of Hedgewood Properties' Vickery, Hampton and Chattahoochee River Club developments, the properties are scheduled to be sold Sept. 2 on the steps of the county courthouse, according to legal notices published in the Forsyth County News.

Pam Sessions, co-founder and chief executive of Hedgewood, could not be reached for comment.

But David M. Smith, Hedgewood's executive vice president, said Thursday that the debt amount could be less than it appears.

"Sometimes the face amount is not the current amount," Smith said. "So it's a little misleading when you look at the original note amounts that relate to the security deeds."

Smith said that every time a property is sold, the debt decreases.

Vickery, a 214-acre mixed-use development at Major and Post roads, has quickly become a part of the south Forsyth community. Vickery Village, the commercial portion, boasts about 35 specialty shops and restaurants. Some 250 homes have sold in the development since summer 2003.

The village and about one-third of the residential portion are included in the foreclosure, said Smith, adding that the YMCA and a couple of other parts of the village are excluded.

"Vickery is really, from the lender's perspective, is treated as one development and, obviously, it's in different phases of completion," Smith said.

"But overall the goal is for us to work with the lender to restructure what I call the master financing, and that's what we're in the process of doing."

Smith said that an unfortunate part of that restructuring process is foreclosure, which "enables the lender to have more control."

Laura Hoover, owner of the Pear Tree, one of the first shops to open in the village in 2006, said she is optimistic.

"It's a period of time," she said. "I think that we weather the storm. We've got a great customer base and the community has been phenomenal since we opened, and I think it'll continue to be that way."

Gina Meyers, co-owner of Carta Bella, echoed Hoover's optimism.

"I don't think foreclosure ever helps business," she said. "We've seen an increase of sales this year, so that's always good."

"But we've been here for two years and we've seen the growth, although we can always see more."

Smith said the foreclosure should stabilize conditions for merchants in Vickery Village.

"I think the bottom line is, financially speaking, the village and Vickery as a whole should be in a much better position," he said.

Less than 1 percent of the Hampton and Chattahoochee River Club developments also face foreclosure. Smith said those properties are platted, but homes have not been built on them.

The recent economic downturn, Smith said, has Hedgewood downsizing and restructuring, but the company plans to weather the storm.

In May, Hedgewood was involved in the foreclosure of about 26,000 square feet of retail space in a similar mixed-use project in the nearby Cherokee County town of Woodstock.

"We've been in business 23 years, so we have a lot of built-up value there, and so we're just doing the best we can to make it through the downturn," he said.

"No, things are not good. They're not good for anybody, but it's our intent and determination to survive."

Smith said Hedgewood expects within the next six to eight weeks to "reach an agreement with our lender and partners for Vickery to continue to thrive even in a slow market."

Staff Writer Jennifer Sami contributed to this report.