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Bankrupt Landmark developer back in real estate

Developer Zack Davidson is President and CEO of the company that plans a low-impact, but profitable, development of the 994-acre Hideout Lake community near Telluride.

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Zack Davidson, the developer of the Landmark condominium and retail project in Greenwood Village that became embroiled in one of the largest and most highly visible real estate bankruptcies in the Denver area in recent years, has re-emerged as a top executive of a California-based firm that says its mission is to provide attractive returns to wealthy investors, while protecting, preserving and improving pristine property.

Davidson, who filed for personal Chapter 7 liquidation of his assets in Denver bankruptcy court almost exactly two years ago, is now the President and CEO of the Earthkeeper Alliance. A call to the company, seeking an interview with Davidson, has not been returned.

Not broadcasting bankruptcies

The biography of Davidson on the company’s website did not mention the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the Landmark project that included two condo towers and the Village Shops at the Landmark in 2009, nor his personal bankruptcy in February 2010.

Landmark Tower condo, retail project in Greenwood Village

His personal bankruptcy listed $164.6 million in liabilities and $141.3 million in personal property. His real property included a house at 820 Gaylord St. His bankruptcy filing said he rejected an offer to sell it for $2.1 million. Last March, it sold in a short sale for $1.875 million. The largest claim in his Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy was $90.66 million owed to Hypo Real Estate Capital Corp. that  made a construction loan on the Landmark and had been personally guaranteed by Davidson.

Zack Davidson't former Denver home was sold in a short sale.

During the frothy real estate market of early 2007, Davidson threw parties promoting the Landmark that Realtors at the time compared to something out of Cirque du Soleil. Guests dined on chateaubriand, veal scallopini and lobster salad and he handed out lavish gift packages to guests. He later boasted that he would spend $1.7 million throwing a party.

Davidson’s biography on the Earthkeepers’s website said that for the past 13 years he has served as President and CEO of Everest Development Co. and Eikon Investments, with offices in San Francisco, Denver and Dallas.

The bio of Davidson goes on to say that those “diversified real estate development companies have acquired, entitled, developed and redeveloped nearly $1 billion of extremely complex and diverse real estate assets throughout the western United States.”

“Un-developer” developer

It does not say when Davidson joined the privately held Earthkeeper Alliance, headed and founded by Adam C. Hall. In 2007, Hall, who had previously made millions of dollars in real estate, began to “acquire large tracts of land for conservation and un-development,” according to the company’s website.

The firm’s goal is to do well by doing good.

Its mantra is to “conserve, protect and restore,” pristine land, keeping it from being over-developed. It says there are millions of acres in the U.S. that could benefit from those three principles.

Its brochure is filled with aphorisms such as:

  • We are committed to leaving the world a better place.
  • We honor both those that came before us and those that will follow.
  • We are guardians and custodians of our time.
  • Our endeavor is to create a Legacy that endures for many generation.
  • It is not just about what we leave behind, but what we give forward!

In Colorado, it said it has Hideout Lake, between Montrose and Telluride, under contract.

$1 million minimum

It take a minimum investment of $1 million to participate in what is called Earthkeeper Legacy Fund I, which will buy and sell  the 994-acres Hideout Lake.

Development drawing for Hideout Lake.

Alternatives for the land include creating 50 “family compound ranches” with an average size of five acres each, distributed throughout the property, with shared access on 744 acres that will be conserved. It also said it will develop a ‘world-class” amenity program that will include fly fishing, cross-country skiing, an equestrian center, a clubhouse with pool and spa, mountain biking, ski cat, hiking, white water rafting, lake fishing, hunting, mountain climbing and spelunking.

Documents obtained by InsideRealEstateNews, show under that development scenario an investments is projected to provide a “preferred return” of 8 percent per year and a projected investor internal rate of return of 27.1 percent. The projected total return is 63.4 percent, with a projected holding period of three years. Some 65 percent of the profit splits beyond the preferred returns would go to the investors and 35 percent to the sponsor. The sponsor management fee is 2 percent per year and would invest 3 percent of the total capital. The fund is expected to be in place for seven years.

In keeping with the company’s ethos to tread lightly on land, its proposed development is far less than the 284 single-family home lots, 91 “cabin” sites, and six “estate” lots entitled to be built on the property.

Earthkeeper’s documents say it is scheduled to close on Hideout Lake on April 1. The acquisition price is  $5.7 million and the total project cost is just under $11.2 million, if it is developed.

Another alternative is to sell the entire property as a “single legacy ranch” with defined places construct buildings. It estimated it can sell the property as a ranch with a minimum of $10 million with a 3 percent cost of sale. Under this option, the total investment internal rate of return to the investor group is expected to be 20.2 percent.

“A third option always exists in that  we can sell the entire property to a land trust,” the firm notes. “We have not modeled this option, but in light of the market comparable s and the severely distressed pricing we have secured, we are confident that selling to a land trust would result in a return in the low teens.”

Horseback riding by Hideout Lake.

Map showing Hideout Lake

Earthkeeper said that $43 million already has been invested in the property, which had been operated as a working ranch until Pacific Development bought it in 2004 and “began the lengthy entitlement process for a large golf course.” A Jack Nicklaus signature golf course was planned on the property, 9,000 feet above sea level with panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains. In 2008, the property was appraised at $121.85 million. The discounted present value of the property is now $74.63 million, according to Earthkeeper. The $120 million Cornerstone Club, with a Greg Norman golf course, is within walking distance of Hidden Lake.

In the 1800s, Hideout Lake was occupied by the Ute Indians and the Tabeguache tribe.

Earthkeeper has identified 136,700 acres of “additional opportunities” in 15 states with a total ‘transaction size” of $213 million. Those opportunities include 2,200 acres for $10 million in Colorado.

If you had $1 million burning a hole in your pocket, would you invest it with Earthkeepers Alliance?

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Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com