Economy Takes Toll On Burrow Spec Buys

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 12, 2012 12:00 am  

Jonesboro developer Bruce Burrow said the Great Recession clobbered his commercial real estate business, leading to a wave of lenders filing foreclosure lawsuits against him.

Since July 2010, Burrow, who helped develop The Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro, has been hit with four judgments totaling $5.5 million. And he still has four foreclosure lawsuits pending where lenders are seeking $3.78 million.

"Let me preface anything I say to you: I take full responsibility," Burrow told Arkansas Business last week. "I've been here 40 years and we've developed lots of property. ... when things turned down, I got caught holding too much vacant ground.

"I simply ran out of cash and didn't have it," the 69-year-old said.

Now Burrow thinks the days of speculating on vacant commercial land are over.

"I don't think anybody in our business ... will get caught holding raw land [again]," he said. "But to buy it and not immediately have a use for it is not something I will do again. Had I done that this go-around, I wouldn't be where I'm at today."

These days, Burrow said, he is working with the banks to sell the pieces of property that are the subject of the foreclosure lawsuits.

He said that he still had more assets than liabilities but declined to say how much.

Burrow said most banks were working with him, but he is in a legal catfight with Iberiabank and has filed a counterclaim against the Lafayette, La., bank for the way it handled the foreclosures against his properties.

Unrelated to the foreclosure lawsuits, Burrow sued his business partner in October over the management of The Mall at Turtle Creek. Burrow's partner, David Hocker of David Hocker & Associates Inc. of Owensboro, Ky., fired back with a countersuit. That case settled last week. (See story, Legal Battle Over Turtle Creek Ends in Settlement.)

These days, Burrow said, the economy in Jonesboro is improving and he is trying to wind down his business dealings and do more traveling.

He said he was optimistic that one day he'll dig himself out of the debts from the lawsuits. "I worked my way into it, and I'll work my way out of it," Burrow said.



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