Business feature: Assisted living facility in north Clovis remains in limbo

File photo Wheatfields Senior Living Community, tied into a corporate bankruptcy, is still in limbo more than four years after construction began.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Tied to the collapse of senior-housing giant Sunwest Management Inc., Wheatfields Assisted Living Community in north Clovis remains a ghost town more than four years after construction began.

Now involved in bankruptcy, the facility, along with countless others across the country, still hangs in limbo.

Sunwest and Wheatfields investor Eric Jacobsen said Monday there is a March 13 federal court hearing to evaluate proposals from investment groups that have made offers. And that could get things moving, but Jacobsen said it wouldn’t be the first time there have been hopes for progress in the case.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” he said with a chuckle, explaining numerous court dates have produced no resolution.

While many of Sunwest’s properties were forced into foreclosure, Wheatfields is still tied up in bankruptcy litigation as part of the corporation’s restructuring negotiations. He said it will eventually get resolved, whether it goes to foreclosure with a bank or is included in a restructuring.

Either way, Jacobsen said the facility still has promise.

“It’s a well conceived project,” he said. “It’s a good market place; it’s needed in the area, so I think once the litigation is settled, something will happen fairly quickly.”

Jacobsen was one of a group of 30 investors on the Clovis project and one of about 1,200 total invested in the corporation when Sunwest started going sour.

The Securities and Exchange Commission — which filed a March 2009 suit against Sunwest, contractor KDA Construction and numerous others for defrauding investors — has estimated that as much as $400 million in losses could be suffered by investors and creditors, according to a story printed Saturday in Salem, Oregon’s Statesman Journal.

Construction began in the winter of 2006 on Wheatfields, a $20 million project that was to feature 64 assisted living apartments, 10 retirement cottages and 24 Alzheimer’s accommodations with 24-hour nursing care and group meals available for all residents.

Occupying a 12 1/2-acre lot just south of the intersection of North Prince Street and Wilhite Road, the property now sits in a partial stage of completion.

By 2008 local contractors were filing liens — more than $3 million worth, some eventually paid, some not — and both the cash flow and project came to a halt.

The city put Wheatfields on notice in 2009 that it needed to secure the premises and complete the landscaping to meet code standards, since, with the exception of a few inhabited cottages, the property had for all intents and purposes been abandoned.