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PHOENIX-A Canadian buyer closed his first deal in the area, collecting 186 units at the Hawthorne. Buyer Hawthorne Phoenix Condominiums LLC, led by Jeff Appleton, paid $12 million, or approximately $65,000 per unit, to Hawthorne Marketing Corp., an affiliate of Corus Bank NA and took the remainder of what was a 276-unit apartment-to-condo complex.

What drove the deal from the buyer’s end were the location at 3848 N. 3rd Ave. and the asset itself. “It’s a a great property, it has great bones and the location is amazing,” Appleton tells GlobeSt.com. “The light rail is right there. You can walk five minutes, jump on the light rail, and be downtown in 10 minutes. That’s what the original group saw when they bought this back in 2005.”

GlobeSt.com previously reported Hawthorne was acquired in 2005 by PB Associates of Southfield MI for close to $40 million; more than $143,000 per unit. PB Associates planned to convert the class A rental complex at into condominiums. But while the developer’s acquisition timing was good, an issue with the city of Phoenix set the project back about six months says Scottsdale, AZ-based ICC Real Estate LLC’s Joe Dietz.

“They were slow to get out of the block, and lost the market because of that,” says Dietz, who represented Corus Bank in the transaction. Though PB Associates was able to sell 90 of the units, the condo market collapse killed any further sales.

Dietz tells GlobeSt.com that the foreclosure process against Hawthorne began in January 2008, with the auction scheduled for April of that year. PB Associates declared bankruptcy during the period, in hopes of getting an extension from the court. But when the judge lifted the veil of bankruptcy in fall 2008, the courts foreclosed on Hawthorne once and for all, Dietz explains. “They never went into default. The courts just didn’t provide the extension they needed,” Dietz adds.

Hawthorne was built in 1995 sits on just under 10 acres. The complex has one, two and three bedroom units. Appleton says the plan is to begin rehab on some of the units soon and to test the waters in terms of retail sales. “We’re patient as owners,” he comments.

In the meantime, Appleton says he’d like to invest in more stabilized multifamily assets in strong locations at the right price. He and his partners are looking at product right now, but nothing is under contract at this time.

“We know what we like and we’re trying not to reinvent the wheel. If we see something we like, that meets our criteria, we’ll look at it,” Appleton explains. “Right now, though, a lot of it is still a tire-kicking exercise.”

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