The renewed world: Myrtle Beach investor steps up level of development

sjones@thesunnews.comJune 7, 2013 

Real estate investor John Stillwagon of Terra Properties has recently taken on his biggest project since the stock market crash in 2008, and he’s concerned that all the little details are right.

The 73 lots Stillwagon and his four partners bought are in Myrtle Grove Plantation, a development off S.C. 9 that was originally planned as a sport marksmanship destination community. It had 361.5 acres, including more than 100 for the gun club and was to have more than 800 housing units, 650 of which were to be single-family homes.

Stillwagon said there are just 20 to 25 homes completed in the development, a situation he and his partners hope to remedy in no more than three years. The gun club is there, too, although not yet connected to the development internally with a paved road.

A billboard on S.C. 9 will direct lookers to the development, which is sort of behind the Black Bear Golf Club.

When word got out erroneously that the property was in foreclosure, his partnership was negotiating with a half dozen builders to get a model home on site and get ready to build more.

“There’s enough fear in the marketplace that anything can choke a deal,” he said.

But he stepped in to correct the error and now believes the project is back on solid ground.

What happened, Stillwagon said, was that foreclosure was filed on the property but had not yet been declared. The bank moving on the holders of a loan for the property told prospective buyers that it would sell the property for the right price and gave them 30 days to do so.

The group of investors, all Grand Strand businessmen, took the offer.

Stillwagon said that if banks and the government would ease lending restrictions, another housing boom would follow close behind.

He said the nation normally puts up 1.6 million to 1.7 million new homes a year, but has been far below that since the crash. In 2011, the new home construction didn’t equal what had been done in 1963, he said. In 2012, only 600,000 new homes were built.

A done deal

Changes to the Retreat at Barefoot Village in North Myrtle Beach have gotten final approval from the city, and work can commence to make the community into a 2013 version of what had been previously planned.

The 2013 version calls for a radically streamed-down commercial center – from 388,640 square feet to 40,000 square feet – and the conversion of 50 three-bedroom townhouses to 41 single-family bungalows and five duplexes.

Each of the five duplexes will have two residences.

The entire area was originally approved as a town center in 2007, but North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said the property owner asked to change the plan because there aren’t enough nearby residents to support a large commercial center.

Residents were generally OK with the changes, but some thought they might like more commercial space than what is now the plan.

A deal in works

Habitat for Humanity of Horry County has recently had two houses donated to it by banks who want to turn foreclosures into something useful.

The deals – one with JPMorgan Chase and the newest with Bank of America – put Habitat into the home rehab business and offer it a chance to get a home for a family much less expensively than building it from the ground up.

Gail Olive, Horry Habitat executive director, said the organization plans to put $10,000 to $15,000 into each rehab, where it spends an average of $70,000 on the homes it builds from scratch. Habitat may do even more rehabs, but its bylaws won’t let it buy houses, Olive said.

The JPMorgan house is in Socastee, Olive said, and work has already begun. The house donated by Bank of America is in Conway and she said work would begin on it either during the weekend or on Monday. The goal is to have a family in each within three to six months.

Bank of America has a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity International where the bank will donate 2,000 vacant properties to the organization in the next three years.

“We’re going to work as we have money,” Olive said, pointing out that Habitat will have to buy things such as paint, flooring, cabinets, windows, siding and heating and air conditioning systems in the rehabs.

Yes, like all nonprofits, it needs contributions.

You can send a tax-deductible donation to Habitat for Humanity of Horry County to 165 Coop Road, Myrtle Beach 29588.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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