For 3rd time in 13 years, Lenox Commons has a new owner

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LENOX — Just as a Lenox plaza was hitting its stride with nearly full occupancy, its cash-strapped owner has sold it to keep the development alive and to unsaddle himself from millions in debt.

David Ward, owner of L.D. Builders, of Lenox, recently transferred the ownership of Lenox Commons and two other residential developments that he created in Lenox and Great Barrington to an investor in those projects.

Limited liability companies formed by Lenox Commons' new owner, David Margulies, of Newton, are now responsible for $7.9 million that Ward's entities owed to MountainOne Bank on the three projects, and an additional $2.6 million that was owed to him personally. Those entities also have assumed responsibility for $4.6 million of debt on Lenox Commons, and $2.6 million on each of the other two properties, Lenox Landings and Barrington Brook, according to documents filed at the Middle and Southern Berkshire registries of deeds.

This is the third time in 13 years that the Lenox Commons property has changed hands.

David Barile, who owns On a Roll Cafe, a small eatery in the Lenox Commons complex, said he was aware that Ward had transferred ownership of the property but doesn't believe that the change will affect his business. Barile's restaurant has been so successful since it opened in Lenox in 2016 that he closed another restaurant he operated in downtown Pittsfield the year after.

"It didn't really cause me too much anxiety," Barile said. "I figured he would do something to get himself out of it."

Lee/Lenox Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen said he was aware that the old ownership group was trying to straighten out some delinquent tax issues with the town but didn't know the extent of its private debt.

"Quite frankly, the location of that site is attractive to any would-be owner because of the traffic along that corridor and the general attractiveness of the town," he said. "We will work with whoever we can to make that property as successful as it can be."

Town Tax Collector Brenda Marra said any outstanding financial issues between Ward and the town at either Lenox Commons or Lenox Landings were resolved when the change in ownership took place.

"Anything that was due has been paid off," Marra said.

Ward — he is the onetime co-owner of Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club — did not return a phone call seeking comment. But, attorney Andrew Hochberg, of Pittsfield, who helped negotiate the agreement with Margulies on Ward's behalf, said Ward had run into what he referred to as "bumps in the road" while managing the three developments, and that the deal was a way for him to "get out of a difficult situation."

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The change in ownership "will keep the bank happy and allow the development to continue with an influx of capital," he said.

The money that the Ward-owned entities L.D. Associates and Stone Path Development owed to MountainOne and Margulies are from a series of mortgages and collateral assignments that were initiated from 2014 to 2018, according to registry documents. Margulies was owed for the collateral assignment of licenses, permits, contract and development rights that went into effect in 2017 and 2018. That debt also is secured by a mortgage on Barrington Brook that was signed this year.

"Changes in the market" made it difficult for Ward to maintain sales figures on the three projects, while the funding model at Barrington Brook might have affected his cash flow, Hochberg said.

"Instead of folding his tents and going home, he negotiated a deal where at least the projects could continue, and the bank is made whole," Hochberg said. "This is a way to work out of a tight situation, and now [these projects] are going to proceed. ... He wanted to continue to make sure these projects were successful."

Although Ward no longer owns the three developments, he might continue to have a role in managing them, Hochberg said. Ward also either has owned or developed other residential developments in Dalton, Lee and Pittsfield.

"Dave's a good salesman, and he has a lot of connections," Hochberg said. "Dave Ward has developed close to 300 residential condominiums in Berkshire County and been involved in a number of commercial transactions that have been relatively successful."

Neither Margulies nor his attorney, Ethan Klepetar, of Great Barrington, returned phone calls seeking comment. According to registry documents, Margulies previously has been involved in the ownership of several properties in Southern Berkshire County.

With the exception of a vacant former restaurant at the entrance to the complex, Lenox Commons is filled with a mix of commercial tenants that includes two eateries, doctors' offices, a wellness center, neurology clinic, home design center, martial arts studio, gift shop, hair salon and Berkshire Medical Center's Lenox Family Health Center. The vacant restaurant space is owned by Berkshire lodging entrepreneur Navin Shah, who in June announced that he was seeking a host community agreement from the town to run a marijuana shop at the site.

Lenox Landings, located on Walker Street in Lenox, across from Cranwell, and Barrington Brook, located off Christian Hill Road in Great Barrington, contain luxury single-family homes, according to their websites. Some of the lots at 156-acre Barrington Brook have yet to be developed.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

This story has been corrected to note that an anchor shop at the plaza remains empty while its owner awaits approval for a marijuana sales permit.


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