Arizona Real Estate News Access
All the real estate and mortgage news you need to know in Arizona

May 2009
« Apr   Jun »
Vermaland LLC owner offers five parcels for new solar plants
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 9:44 pm

A private landowner in western Maricopa County is hoping to spur more development of solar power plants by putting five parcels up for grabs in a June 6 auction.

Kuldip Verma, CEO of Vermaland LLC, is putting more than 1,900 acres up for bid in an effort to lure solar companies off the fence to start building. The parcels are spread from the Harquahala Valley through Hyder.

“We have found that they’re always waiting on something or another,” he said.

The land rush for solar companies looking for sites has been going on for several years. U.S. and international companies have put thousands of acres in escrow with private owners and filed applications to use state and federal lands.

So far, nothing has been built along what some state officials hope to develop into one of the largest solar power corridors in the world. Tight financing has bogged down projects, but recently it has begun to loosen. Potential federal loan guarantees, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also may aid projects.

This may be the first time, however, that a private landowner will try to auction parcels to solar companies. And potential buyers need to be aware of several issues before purchasing that land.

“There really is a relatively narrow band of land available for solar development,” said Roger Ferland, an attorney who heads Phoenix law firm Quarles & Brady LLP’s clean energy, climate change and sustainability team.

Water rights and access to the power grid are a few challenges solar companies must deal with when hunting for a site, Ferland said. Vermaland’s acreage, currently used for cantaloupe farming, has water rights and access to the grid.

Buyers will have to deal with size issues, however. Utility-scale solar power plants typically require about 1,900 acres to provide 200 to 300 megawatts of power. Vermaland’s parcels range from about 80 acres to about 800. Still, Verma said he believes they could be used for smaller projects or combined with neighboring parcels. Ownership of that land runs the gamut from private holders to state and federal governments.

Vermaland bought the parcels about three years ago, when the company was looking for an area specifically for investments in solar technologies. Prices have come off their peak, and Verma said he’s more interested in getting solar companies to come to the table than turning a quick profit.

The parcels are priced below comparable properties, ranging from $1,600 to about $7,000 per acre, he said.

The company already has sold some of its more than 10,000 acres to solar developers with agreements to produce power for California-based utilities. About 40 people from various solar companies are interested in the parcels to be auctioned, said Anita Verma-Lallian, the company’s marketing director.

“A lot of companies are wanting to come here and export power to California,” she said.

Public land auctions still may be a year away. The Arizona State Land Department has cooperated with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and a private landowner on the Dry Lake Wind Project in northeastern Arizona, but it won’t be ready until next year to auction long-term ground leases to solar companies, said Jamie Hogue, interim state land commissioner.

“We’re hoping to get our land to market so we can be competitive with the private owners,” she said.

With financing issues temporarily shelving plans for many developers, the State Land Department wants to make sure it issues leases to viable projects that could last 50 years or more, Hogue said.

The BLM has numerous applications from a wide range of solar developers, with a heavy concentration of Arizona projects along Interstate 10 east of the California border, according to BLM records.

Solar development companies have been submitting applications since 2007 for the parcels, and the combined development could yield more than 24 gigawatts of power — about 40 percent more power than Arizona Public Service Co. and Salt River Project combined are capable of producing or can buy on contract.

One of the challenges for BLM in granting right-of-way easements for the projects is making sure the companies are

capable of moving forward before the 20- to 30-year options on the land are granted, said Julie Decker, the Arizona branch chief for land and recreation.

“You have to use (the land),” she said. “You can’t just sit there.”

Both BLM and the State Land Department said applications have decreased as the recession has gripped the credit markets, but there have been signs of increasing interest as the credit markets loosen.

Vermaland hopes the auction will increase interest by solar companies and get parcels moving closer to development, Verma-Lallian said.

“I think we’re trying to be a lot more proactive about getting solar companies to come to Phoenix,” she said.


What: Vermaland LLC is auctioning five parcels of land totaling about 1,900 acres in western Maricopa County

When: June 6, 1 p.m.

Where: Sheraton Crescent Hotel,
2620 W. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix


Phoenix Business Journal - by Patrick O’Grady Friday, May 29, 2009

comments (0)
Receiverships grow amid foreclosures
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 8:48 pm

Phoenix-area real-estate brokerages and property managers are gearing up to ride an anticipated wave of business in managing financially struggling apartment, condominium, office and retail projects as court-appointed receivers.  more…

comments (0)
Meritage Homes reinvents itself to survive
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 8:34 pm

Home builders who three years ago were selling new homes at record prices must now overhaul their entire operations to survive.  more…

comments (0)
Blandford takes over Portello at Dobson Crossing community
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 8:27 pm

The construction workers get going early, but the sounds of sawing and hammering are music to the ears of residents of the Portello at Dobson Creek community in Chandler.  more…

comments (0)
Construction costs down 5.5 percent with projects hard to find
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 3:43 pm

Construction costs dropped 5.5 percent in Phoenix during the first four months of 2009, according to new data released by Rider Levett Bucknall, an international consulting and research firm with offices in the Valley.

The RLB Quarterly Construction Report attributes the decline in construction cost indices here and throughout the country largely to decreasing structural steel costs, but also to lower bids submitted by suppliers and contractors hungry for work.

“Contractors’ concerns about the availability of work have overshadowed commodities’ role in driving construction costs,” the report says.

Cost declines were steeper in Denver (7.5 percent) and Seattle (7.9 percent). The smallest decline (3.2 percent) was recorded in Boston.

Construction costs remain a relative bargain in Phoenix compared with other metro areas.

The average construction cost of prime office space in Phoenix ranges from $150 to $250 per square foot. In San Francisco, the range is $195 to $300. The average construction cost of a general hospital in Phoenix ranges from $305 to $430 a square foot. In Washington, that range is $450 to $585.

For more:

Phoenix Business Journal - by Jan Buchholz Friday, 05.29.09

comments (0)
Retail Brokers Inc. principals face lawsuits related to investments
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 3:14 pm

Scottsdale real estate developers and shopping center owners Ron Barness and Alex Papakyriakou are facing three lawsuits related to almost $9.5 million in loans from an Oklahoma bank to the pair’s real estate partnerships. The two men also are defendants in three investor lawsuits claiming they mismanaged investments in their retail real estate endeavors.

The developers are trying to settle the investor complaints, according to several attorneys familiar with the cases. In 2008, the pair settled a similar investor suit out of court.

Barness and Papakyriakou, principals of Scottsdale-based Retail Brokers Inc., own shopping centers in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert and Glendale. They operate each center under a separate business partnership.

The pair also are involved in a number of Phoenix-area charitable organizations. Barness, for example, is active with local Jewish community causes and helped raise money for Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.

Papakyriakou also goes by the name Alex Papas.

The Bank of Oklahoma filed its suits in late January in Maricopa County Superior Court, claiming the developers failed to pay back three loans totaling $9.5 million, according to court documents. Mike Manning, Phoenix managing partner of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, the law firm representing the bank, declined to comment on the pending matters.

“We cannot comment on the record,” Manning said.

RBI and Barness’ charitable foundation did not respond to requests for comment. No official response to the lawsuit was filed by the defendants by press time.


The investor lawsuits were filed in Maricopa County Superior Court against Barness and Papakyriakou’s real estate businesses.

Those three investor claims may be consolidated under Maricopa Superior Court Judge John Buttrick and settled together, according to legal sources who would not go on the record.

Barness and Papakyriakou’s attorney, Jeffrey Leonard, said he expects the investor lawsuits to be resolved soon. He said the resolutions would be via mutual agreement, but declined to say whether they would involve out-of-court settlements.

Leonard also would not comment about the resolution or settlement of the 2008 investor lawsuit. Barness and Papakyriakou did not comment for this story.

Other lawyers familiar with the investor suits said a settlement is being negotiated.

Robert Mitchell, the investor/plaintiff’s attorney in the 2008 claim against Barness and Papakyriakou, said he could not comment. “All I can tell you is that the case was dismissed,” he said.

The 2008 case claimed Barness and Papakyriakou deceived investors with self-deals and misrepresented sales and financial proceeds.

One of the 2009 in-vestor suits was filed by Phoenix cardiologist Na-than Laufer and four other investors who say Barness and Papakyriakou raised as much as $400 million in equity investments and loans for their real estate and shopping center businesses. They claim the defendants “wrongfully diverted nearly $50 million to themselves,” according to court documents.

The Laufer suit also contends Barness and Papakyriakou improperly used investment money in some deals between business entities they owned, and that the sales benefited the defendants but not the investors. The suit claims fraud, breach of contract and failure to meet fiduciary responsibilities.

Plaintiffs in the Laufer case say they invested $1.3 million in Barness-Papakyriakou real estate endeavors. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the Laufer case would not comment.

A second investor suit, filed by the Eugene and Lenore Schupak Family Trust, claims the trust invested

$10.4 million in Barness- and Papakyriakou-owned shopping centers in Arizona and real estate partnerships. The same suit contends another family entity, Schupak Partners I, invested $953,000 in Castle Yuma Dev Partners, an investment entity created by the defendants.

The Schupak lawsuit claims Barness and Papakyriakou improperly commingled investment money, conducted deals in which they used investors’ dollars to purchase or invest in other entities owned by the defendants, and used those self-deals to collect management and broker fees. The complaint also contends the two defendants used investment entities and properties to secure loans for their personal benefit. The suit charges the defendants with fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract, according to the case filings.

Andrew Abraham, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the Schupak matter, declined to comment on the case, including what damages his clients are seeking.

“We have no comment on the matter we’re handling,” Abraham said.

The third suit was brought against Barness and Papa-kyriakou by investors Madeline, Nanci and Carly Goodman. Details of that claim were not available. Ivan Mathew, the Phoenix attorney representing the Goodmans, declined to comment because the matter is pending.


Arizona State University law professor Bob Dauber said self-deals between real estate partnerships are not improper if the principals disclose their actions to investors, and they have a fiduciary duty to protect and cultivate investors’ money.

“It’s not illegal as long as it’s adequately disclosed,” Dauber said of self-deals.

The Bank of Oklahoma and the three 2009 investor cases are active and have not yet been dismissed or finalized, according to the Superior Court docket.

Barness and his wife, Daron, head the Daron and Ron Barness Family Foundation. Ron Barness also is chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Phoenix and serves on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, Phoenix Symphony, United Way Foundation and Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation.

Papakyriakou and his wife, Roxane, also have a charitable foundation: the Alex and Roxane Papas Family Foundation.

RBI is named in the Laufer lawsuit, but none of the other claims. Barness and Papakyriakou, their spouses and the various real estate partnerships they are involved in are named in all of the pending suits.


Locations of shopping centers owned by Barness and Papakyriakou business entities:

Warner Village, Priest and Warner roads, Tempe 

• Union Crossing, 43rd Avenue and Union Hills Drive, Phoenix

• Southwest corner of 43rd and Peoria avenues, Glendale

• Southwest corner of Gilbert and Guadalupe roads, Gilbert

• Southwest corner of 75th and Peoria avenues, Peoria

Sources: Court documents, Retail Brokers Inc.

Phoenix Business Journal - by Mike Sunnucks 05.29.09

comments (0)
Arizona’s credit unions also hit hard by bad consumer loans
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:37 pm

Banks have been rattled by the financial-system earthquake, but credit unions are feeling aftershocks, too.  more…

comments (0)
Wigwam resort gets new manager
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:30 pm

A group of companies have reached an agreement over management of the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa in Litchfield Parkmore…

comments (0)
3 NE Phoenix zoning cases proposed
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:21 pm

Three northeast Phoenix zoning cases come up next week. One, involving a plan to tear down and house and rebuild with a combo medical office and home, was delayed from a month ago because of the applicant’s failure to post a notification sign correctly. The second, involving a project to turn over five homes to office use, is on its second go-round. The third would allow American Express to expand near Loop 101 and 56th Streetmore…

comments (0)
El Chorro owners close doors on decades of good times
Filed under: General, Business, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:13 pm

By 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night, El Chorro Lodge owner Joe Miller was exhausted. His knees were shot from spending the day hopping up and down to greet well-wishers, friends and former regulars. After 72 years of serving Chateaubriand for two and those famous sticky buns, 72 years of functioning as a kind of social club for Paradise Valley families and 72 years of cocktails in the shadow of Mummy Mountain, El Chorro Lodge was closing.  more…

comments (0)
Shop smart; get a home by Labor Day
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:05 pm

This summer, many who’ve long wanted to buy their first home are determined to make that dream come true. And the combination of bargain home prices and low mortgage rates make the idea of home-buying seem especially alluring.  more…

comments (0)
Prime season for house hunting
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:37 pm

Wooed by historically low housing prices, tax incentives and enticing interest rates, people once again are flirting with buying a home. Whether they’re first-time purchasers, second-home buyers or investors, the housing market’s slide can have an upside, experts say.  more…

comments (0)
Bank of America Home Loans Announces New Program to Help Municipalities Purchase Bank-Owned Properties
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:17 pm

Calabasas, Calif. - As part of its commitment to stabilize communities hardest hit by foreclosures, Bank of America Home Loans has announced new streamlined capabilities for municipalities to purchase properties from its real estate-owned (REO) portfolio. The new guidelines are exclusively for local and state government departments receiving U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) grants, to more easily and quickly acquire foreclosed properties for resale to home buyers or to address other community development needs.  more…

comments (0)
Gold Stocks Breaking Out As Metal Rallies
Filed under: General, Finance
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 6:07 pm

One school of thought in today’s market sees the dollar weakening further and an inflationary cycle taking shape. It’s a view that’s good for gold. more…

comments (0)
Panel : Commercial Lending Woes On Rise
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 6:00 pm

Commercial lending markets remain stagnant and losses in the sector are likely to sharply rise in coming years, but government action could help curb the downturn, politicians and executives said during a hearing in New York on Thursday.  more…

comments (0)
Job Losses Boost Foreclosures; ‘Good’ Credit Risks Going Bad
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 5:54 pm

One of eight U.S. households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process in a crisis that will persist for at least another year until unemployment peaks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday.  more…

comments (0)
Delinquent mortgages, foreclosures up in Ariz.
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 5:24 pm

Arizona homeowners remain under severe pressure as foreclosures and delinquencies here and in three other states continue to push up the national averages.

Arizona residential delinquencies rose 0.2 of a percentage point to 9.66 percent at the end of the first quarter from the fourth quarter, excluding loans in foreclosure, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.   more…

comments (0)
Surprise buys land for a park-and-ride lot
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 5:17 pm

Surprise’s strategic placement of a park-and-ride lot near a railway stretching from downtown Phoenix to Wickenburg is the first heartbeat in an ongoing effort to bring commuter-rail service to the Valley.  more…

comments (0)
Warning Signs That Breakout Is Faltering
Filed under: General, Finance
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 5:04 pm

Finding a good base can be tough. Even when you do, its breakout might not work. If you can’t spot a bad breakout, you’ll end up taking far more 7% or 8% losses than profitable trades. Three warning signs can tell you if a breakout is faltering. If any of the three happen, it’s OK to at least consider selling quickly — even before losses reach 7%. Or, you could walk away with a small profit rather than risk a loss.  more…

comments (0)
Still-struggling Ariz.-based banks make headway
Filed under: General, Business
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 4:53 pm

Arizona-based banks are trying to get off the mat but, like overmatched prizefighters, some remain bloody and dazed.

The 55 commercial banks based in the state are mostly small institutions with one or a few offices, in contrast to major nationally chartered operations doing business in the state.

On balance, they are in worse shape than banks nationally and in worse shape than they were a year ago, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.  more…

comments (0)