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By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent 
September 22, 2011

HANOVER - Two parcels of land that were part of an ambitious, 100-plus-acre mixed-use development plan along Washington Street are slated to be sold at auction this morning, the victims of a harsh economic downturn that quashed the dream of its developers and landed them in foreclosure.

More than half of the land owned by a subsidiary of the Norwell-based Witsop Development Group has been put up for sale by South Shore Savings Bank.

The sale, which was originally planned for May, was again postponed in July after the owners filed for bankruptcy protection. On Friday, auctioneer Daniel McLaughlin, whose Boston-based firm is handling the sale for the bank, said the parcels went back on the books for auction today after the bankruptcy claim was dismissed in court.

The parcels are part of the foundered Village of Hanover project, characterized in 2005 as an upscale lifestyle center that would enhance Hanover’s growing main thoroughfare.

The project was to include one section called Village Park, with more than 200,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, and another to be known as Village Commons, a 104-unit condo project.

The development’s first phase, a 12,000-square-foot strip-mall complex called the Village Square, was the only facet of the development that was ever completed. Two years ago, though, it was placed in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

McLaughlin has included the parcels to be auctioned in a grouping of featured properties on his website and said he plans to conduct the auctions himself.

The fact that the project already has all its permits and is considered to be “shovel ready’’ should appeal to buyers who want to get moving quickly without having to start from scratch, he said.

One of the properties is the 56.23-acre site where the Village Commons part of the overall plan was to go. It has miles of infrastructure already in place, including roads that have been constructed, drainage systems, and curbs.

The other spot is a 1.8-acre piece of land that contains a partially completed sewage-treatment facility that was to have supported both the residential and the commercial projects, according to the listing.

Neither the attorney for the bank nor the owners of the land could be reached for comment. But according to the Boston Business Journal, the developers at Witsop got a $2 million loan from South Shore Savings Bank in 2004 and then a year later secured two more for $3.9 million and $275,000. Then, in 2007, the bank extended a $6.6 million mortgage to the development group, according to the published account.

According to other news reports at the time, Witsop’s partners claimed that the bank opted not to close on a key construction loan in 2008, which left them high and dry for money. As the economy tanked, the company was unable to find another source of money to move the project forward. Soon, the bank foreclosed, which launched another string of bad tidings.

After today’s sale, McLaughlin said a $100,000 down payment from the winning bidder will be required on the larger property and a $50,000 deposit is needed for the smaller one.

While he did not want to discuss details about the pricing, or at what dollar figure he plans to get the bidding rolling this morning, McLaughlin said it’s really the other end of the equation that’s key, at least as far as the bank is concerned: “It’s where it ends up that really matters.’’

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.

Posted in: Print, Internet

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