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NASCAR offices building big money losers
The owners of the NASCAR Plaza office tower have defaulted on a $95 million loan, according to a lawsuit filed by Regions Bank, which is urging fellow project lender Wells Fargo & Co. to do whatever it takes to collect, including foreclosure. The uncertain future of the 19-story, 390,000-square-foot office development is perhaps the largest example yet of growing stress in Charlotte's commercial real estate market. Earlier this summer, Regions initiated foreclosure proceedings against the 302,000-square-foot EpiCentre complex uptown, prompting the property's owners to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. NASCAR Plaza is one of four office towers added to the Charlotte skyline in just over a year. It was developed by Indianapolis-based Lauth Group Inc. and opened in May 2009, next to the new NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Regions filed suit against Wells Fargo late last month in federal court in Indiana. Wells and Regions made the $95 million loan in 2007 to Corporate Plaza Partners, which owns the property and is an affiliate of Lauth. Regions agreed to fund half of the loan, and Wells Fargo was designated as agent for both lenders and assumed the responsibility of administering the loan.

An affiliate of Indiana-based Lauth Property Group Inc., Corporate Plaza Partners LLC, developed the 19-story tower next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Roughly two-thirds of the building's 390,000 square feet is available for lease. NASCAR is the largest tenant with 118,000 square feet, followed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which has taken around 16,000 square feet. The office tower has struggled to attract tenants. Some companies may not want or need to be associated with NASCAR, said real estate analyst Andrew Jenkins of Karnes Research. "The banks and the like who own towers find it easier to attract tenants who want to do business with them," he said. "NASCAR doesn't have clientele who need to be in a building like that." Charlotte Business Journal / WCNC)
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