Interest grows in Pittsburg's troubled housing development
By Paul Burgarino
Contra Costa Times


June 17, 2010

PITTSBURG A downtown condominium project that was stalled for 18 months before the city brought it out of foreclosure is drawing interest from homebuyers.

More than 30 prospective buyers have signed contracts and made deposits to buy lofts, flats and townhouses in the Vidrio development, City Manager Marc Grisham said. Pittsburg bought the 75-unit development from Union Bank earlier this year.

Potential deals can close starting June 30, Grisham said.

Crews this week were adding paint and completing the community pool and other unfinished work left by former developer AF Evans Development when it stopped construction in August 2008. Model homes will be ready for viewing next week, city officials said.

Unit prices range from $98,600 to $198,000, depending on the style and size.

Pittsburg has been working with Bank of Commerce through the standard financing and mortgage process with potential buyers, Grisham said.

Several people interested in buying units have expressed concerns about homeowners association fees. The fees are expected to range from about $330 to $480 per month.

Harry Burrowes, a city project manager, said the fees are reasonable compared with those for similar housing in Walnut Creek and San Francisco. Because Vidrio originally was planned to include more units, the costs were expected to be more widely dispersed, he said.

AF Evans envisioned Vidrio as 195 condos covering three blocks before financial problems halted construction. Pittsburg canceled agreements with Evans to develop the other two blocks.

Vidrio's homeowner fees cover garbage rates and utilities, along with maintenance costs for the community room and swimming pool. The condo association also must maintain a savings fund in case of emergencies, Burrowes said.

"Despite the high (association fees), I think the price is still competitive because the mortgage is very reasonable," he said.

All told, Pittsburg's redevelopment agency has put about $26 million toward Vidrio for property acquisition and other design and construction costs including approving $9.2 million last fall to purchase the property from the bank, settle financial issues with contractor Johnstone Moyer and other liens.

East Contra Costa Realtors said Vidrio's units in 2007 were overpriced for the market by about $100,000. The current asking prices are reasonable, several area Realtors said.

The majority of those in escrow were lured by low interest rates and down-payment assistance Pittsburg offered to help those who work in the community buy homes here, Burrowes said.

Because of early demand, Pittsburg has scrapped original plans to sell 15 units at a time with incrementally higher prices, Grisham said.

"At this point, we're not really worrying about it. We're trying to get people into the units," he said.

Pittsburg also has ended the down-payment assistance, he said, and raised some asking prices since Vidrio started advertising units two months ago.

Work also continues to fill out the 10,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. A bookstore run by a city-controlled nonprofit organization is the lone confirmed tenant.

The City Council is expected to get an update in July on Vidrio's progress.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/pittsburgarino.

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