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New legal troubles for developer behind stalled plans for Burlington shopping centers

A Greensboro-based developer beset by legal problems in recent years – halting his plans to build two shopping centers in Burlington – is being sued again by a contractor in Virginia that claims it hasn’t been paid since 2018.

Multiple lawsuits and liens were filed in 2017 and 2018 against Greensboro developer Edward M. Tam, apparently nixing his plans to build shopping centers at two heavily-traveled intersections in east and west Burlington.

Tam had planned to build a shopping center on the 10-acre parking lot across from the former site of the Western Electric Assembly plant, near the intersection of North Church Street and Graham-Hopedale Road in east Burlington.

Tam had also planned to build a shopping center on 18 acres near Alamance Crossing, at the intersection of South Church Street with University Drive, in west Burlington.

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Both pieces of property were foreclosed on between 2017 and 2019, after Tam defaulted on millions of dollars in bank loans he had obtained to fund construction.

In 2017, Pinnacle Bank foreclosed on the property in east Burlington where Tam had planned to build a shopping center, which he’d hoped to be anchored by one of the first U.S. locations for the German grocer Lidl.

Tam and his partners in Burlington East Development Pinnacle Bank later defaulted on a $2.1 million loan that had been obtained in 2015 and secured with a deed of trust to the property.

The noteholder, Pinnacle Bank, offered the property for sale at foreclosure in February 2018 and ultimately placed the sole bid, $735,000, before reselling it for $1 million later that year, based on documents that were filed in the Alamance County clerk of superior court’s office to consummate the transactions.

In June 2018, Pinnacle Bank sold the site at the intersection of North Church Street and Graham-Hopedale Road to Maryland-based Donnie Neuenberger, Inc., according to the county’s Register of Deeds’ office and county tax records. The current owner is based in Edgewater, Maryland and operates a nonprofit organization that offers financial assistance and other resources for cancer patients, according to the website for the Donnie Neuenberger Foundation.

Tam’s plans to build a shopping center in west Burlington, to be anchored by a Sheetz gas station and an Aldi grocery store, also became mired in legal problems several years ago, when multiple contractors, including the Greensboro-based Samet Corporation, filed liens and lawsuits to recoup hundreds of thousands in alleged debts for labor and materials they claim to have provided during the early stages of development, according to documents that were filed in superior court in late 2017.

The property on the western side of the city was eventually foreclosed on in April 2019, following Tam’s default on a $5.8 million loan that he and his partners in that project, Hillier Keziah, had obtained in 2015 to build the shopping center in west Burlington.

The latest lawsuit against Tam was filed last Thursday in Alamance County civil superior court by Appalachian Structures, LLC to recover an alleged outstanding debt of $72,552.79 for labor and materials that had been provided for Tam’s project in west Burlington.

In its suit, Appalachian Structures alleges that Tam had signed a “guaranty” – ensuring the company would be paid for labor and materials furnished on behalf of Hillier Keziah Family – but the debt has remained unpaid since October 2018.

A copy of the guaranty, which is included in the court file, lists the purpose of the alleged debt as labor, materials, and equipment for a project described as “Burlington Plaza West” at 1033 University Drive in west Burlington. The terms of the guaranty called for Appalachian Structures and/or its subcontractors to be paid within 180 days of the date on which the agreement was signed, in late April 2018.

Appalachian Structures, LLC had been based in Hillsville, Virginia but no longer appears to be operating, according to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
In addition to the alleged debt, Appalachian Structures is seeking recovery

of 8 percent interest from October 20, 2018 and court costs. The company is being represented by Peter J. Juran of the Blanco Tackabery & Matamoros law firm in Winston-Salem.

Tam had not filed a response by press time.

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