Model Shiloh project had sought to combine commercial, residentialWINDSOR – Shiloh Sustainable Village, a planned $50 million mixed-use project with promise for high levels of green-building features and affordable housing, was taken back by the lead lender on the property late last month.

Equity Bancorp Inc. was the first-priority note holder among at least 10 investment groups and individuals who chipped in $8.17 million plus interest for the purchase of the 5.92 acres of vacant land at the northeast corner of Hembree Lane and Shiloh Road in September 2006, according to public records.

Equity Bancorp’s loan, totaling $3.23 million with an exit fee, came due in September 2008, but the lender kept working with the developers to move the project into construction, according to Equity Chairman Marco Garbarino.

"They accomplished quite a bit on the project, and we were trying to give them a push," said Mr. Garbarino. "They were trying to push forward with construction financing and a final map."

The development group, led by North Street Partners LLC of Healdsburg, set out in 2004 to build 65,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 10,000-square-foot specialty grocer and 20,000 square feet of offices. Santa Rosa businessman Mike Runyan's upscale market concept and a second pub for Bear Republic Brewery of Healdsburg were lined up as anchor tenants.

The first phase also would have 80 low-income senior apartments, originally set to be built over the commercial space by nonprofit PEP Housing of Petaluma. The second phase would add 60 market-rate row homes.

To be true to its name, the project was registered under the U.S. Green Building Council's pilot Neighborhood Development rating system that's part of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green-building standards. The developers were aiming to earn the second-highest level of LEED-ND certification with features such as "greywater" and rainwater recycling as well as solar panels on the row homes. Those features garnered national attention from green-building advocates.

In 2006, the planned development topped the town's list of projects worthy of allocations from the annual limit on the number of homes that can be built. The town approved the use permit in October 2008 and the tentative subdivision map a month later.

The first stage was envisioned to be complete in 2011. Windsor Planning Director Peter Chamberlin said the town has received indications from the new ownership that the project won't move forward.

"We're certainly disappointed that the project went away," he said. "It was a very innovative project that would have provided a lot of senior housing."

However, Equity Bancorp's Mr. Garbarino said a development consultant is still analyzing property potential.

"It doesn't do us any good as raw land," he said.

If the project were to proceed, some in the development community have questioned whether the targeted green features and percentage of affordable housing would be feasible in the foreseeable future of the local residential and commercial real estate markets.

However, allocations to a project under the town's growth-management ordinance disappear if the project itself does. And key to the approval of the project were the environmentally friendly features, according to Mr. Garbarino.

"The way it was approved, it is set up for that, and if that is the highest and best use there is no reason to change that," he said.

The San Rafael-based private money lender foreclosed on its $2.75 million loan to Shiloh Sustainable Village Partners LLC, with $3.46 million due when the notice of default was filed May 29 and $3.62 million at the time of the trustee sale in Santa Rosa on Oct. 23, according to the documents. Equity Bancorp acquired the property, located at 295 Shiloh Road, with an $2.85 million opening bid at the auction.

Equity Bancorp is a private money lender that lends for high-priority mortgages then offers a spread to investment clients. The company advertised a 9 percent rate of return on the Windsor project based on 53 percent loan-to-value for a 24-month note.

Shiloh Sustainable Village Partners Manager Sean Rodrigues, architect on the project and part of the Healdsburg-based developer North Street Partners LLC, could not be reached for comment on the sale. Coffee shop entrepreneur Jake Whitely, also part of North Street, declined to comment.

Mr. Rodrigues' explanation for the foreclosure just after the Sept. 4 trustee's sale notice was characterized in a Sept. 16 Windsor Times story as "a result of tough negotiations between investors and financiers brought on by the larger economic crisis."

Other investors chipped in $5.42 million plus interest toward the purchase of the land, according to documents.  Those with secured notes, in order of priority, were Hanna Investments LLC for $1.5 million; Warren Davis, $2.38 million in two loans; Martin Humphrey, $274,700; and Gerrett Snedaker, co-owner of Frank Howard Allen The Wine Country Group, $309,400.

Unsecured lenders were 690 Monterey LLC, led by Alexander Valley vintner Christine Hanna, for $303,600; North Street Partners, $303,600; Michael Bush, $120,000; Paul Kameny, $103,100; and Richard Levine, $120,000.

The loans weren't the only financial challenge for the project. Early last month, a former partner in the project won a nearly $772,500 civil judgment in a Sonoma County Superior Court lawsuit over the property sale transaction.