Major Pr. George's development facing foreclosure

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010

The developer of Westphalia Town Center, a massive mixed-use project expected to dramatically alter the landscape of central Prince George's County, is in default on the loan.

Sandler at Westphalia, a Virginia Beach-based subsidiary of L.M. Sandler & Sons, owes Wells Fargo Bank $47.4 million, including interest, on a loan finalized in December 2005, according to documents filed in Prince George's Circuit Court. The original amount of the loan was $41 million.

Wells Fargo began foreclosure proceedings in August, a month before the County Council, which sits as the District Council to hear zoning issues, gave the developer a green light on the project's conceptual site plan.

Council member Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville), who represents the Westphalia area, said the council had "heard rumors that there were some financial challenges that they were facing. But we've heard that about many developments" in Prince George's.

He said the council approved the project, based on its zoning. "We're not involved in finding out if they are financially solvent or not," he said.

The case has been assigned to a trustee, Richard E. Hagerty of Troutman Sanders LLP of McLean. Hagerty said in an e-mail that his firm's policy is to not comment on pending legal matters.

Marva Jo Camp, who has represented Sandler at Westphalia at hearings in Prince George's, and Nathan D. Benson, who is listed on court documents as a manager with the company, did not return calls seeking comment.

Westphalia Town Center, one of the largest developments of its kind in the county, would have as many as 5,000 housing units, almost 6 million square feet of retail and commercial space and three hotels with perhaps 600 rooms total. The town center would replace 530 acres of farmland and undeveloped property.

The development would be on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue (Route 4), extending from Suitland Parkway to Woodyard Road.

It is part of the Westphalia sector plan, which covers 6,000 acres and is bounded by Ritchie Marlboro Road to the north and east, the Capital Beltway to the west and Pennsylvania Avenue to the south. There are plans to build an additional 10,000 houses outside the town center in that area.

The town center is the anchor of a larger effort by about a half-dozen developers to transform the rural area of Westphalia into a mini-city of houses, stores, offices and hotels.

Dean said he is hopeful that the financial turmoil will be resolved quickly so the project can move forward.

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