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Investor who eyed Channelside plaza loses foreclosure

— A man who tried to persuade a court his partnership should take over operation of Tampa’s foundering Channelside Bay Plaza lost a mobile home park he owned in New Port Richey during a foreclosure auction Tuesday.

Santosh Govindaraju, partnered with developer Punit Shah in the Channelside move, sued Port Tampa Bay last year when the port board exercised its right to refuse the bid from the men’s business, Liberty Channelside LLC.

New bids on the Channelside entertainment complex have been solicited through a federal court and are scheduled to be opened next month. Govindaraju had no comment on whether Liberty Channelside is taking part.

“Channelside info from our side is really confidential due to the litigation,” he said in an email.

Built as a tourist attraction and gateway for millions of cruise passengers, Channelside Bay Plaza has been through more than four years of bankruptcy filings and lawsuits. It remains a gap in efforts to develop the Tampa downtown area.

Govindaraju’s extensive business holdings have included ownership of Walden Pond — a problem-plagued mobile home park off U.S. 19 in New Port Richey that made headlines when its tenants were all evicted and when a tropical storm flooded the property.

More than $70,000 is still owed as a lien on the property by the city of New Port Richey.

Govindaraju joined real estate investor Harshad Mistry of Tampa in the venture, and the two borrowed $1.65 million against the property in January 2007 from the former Citrus & Chemical Bank in Bartow. The bank was later taken over by BB&T.

Mistry had earlier borrowed $1.3 million to buy the property in 2005. That same year, the 8.23 acres were zoned to allow 14 units of multifamily housing per acre, according to city records.

On Tuesday, BB&T bank took back the property for $200 in court fees at an online auction held by the Pasco County clerk of the circuit court.

BB&T’s court filings reported that the park owners stopped making monthly payments on their loan in October 2011. By the time the bank began foreclosure proceedings, the business owed $2.17 million: $1.55 million in the unpaid mortgage, $565,593 in interest, $40,386 in delinquent property taxes and $13,150 in appraisal and late fees.

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano said Tuesday all the back taxes on the property had been paid. BB&T paid the tax bill for 2013, he said.

The property also has a lien of $71,400 from New Port Richey for unpaid water and trash bills and for the cost of demolishing some of the 52 dilapidated mobile homes on the property. The city began demolitions at the park in November 2012. The rest of the mobile homes were cleared by a contractor last year.

In July 2013, Govindaraju and his partners sent eviction notices to their tenants, telling the New Port Richey City Council that the tenants had stopped paying their rent. The trailer park, which sits next to an environmentally sensitive cypress head, was flooded by Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012.

Today, the trailer park property sits behind chain link. A single building remains near the center of the site. The streets still have signs, and power lines are still connected to power poles. Electric meters stand at several spots across the property.

Just outside the west side of the fence, a small pile of old furniture rots in the weather.

Mistry could not be reached Tuesday.

Govindaraju said in his email, “Walden Pond is part of an older investment vehicle known as Paragon Capital Partners LLC that we are unwinding and divesting.”

Govindaraju said there is no relationship between the collapsed Walden Pond venture and his investment — through a group called Convergent Capital Partners — in Channelside and in another downtown venture, the Aloft hotel now under development at Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard.

“Walden Pond is really not news and we don’t really have any other comments to share,” Govindaraju said.

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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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