Tradition Hilton Head, Hilton Head Lakes to become single community

Two large home developments across U.S. 278 from each other in Hardeeville -- Tradition Hilton Head and Hilton Head Lakes -- will join forces now that they have a common owner.

Developers who bought 1,900 acres of the more than 5,000-acre Tradition Hilton Head last month expect to integrate it with Hilton Head Lakes and market both as a single community.

SB Investment, a group including the owners of Hilton Head Lakes and Stratford Land of Dallas, plans to let residents in either development use an amenity center planned at Hilton Head Lakes or the golf course at Tradition Hilton Head, said Mark MacDonald, Stratford's managing director for the Carolinas, Virginia and Washington.

"It will be more like one community," MacDonald said.

Developers probably will refer to the combined property as Hilton Head Lakes, he said. The name of the Tradition golf course will probably change, but the new name has not been determined.

SBI plans to begin construction soon on the Hilton Head Lakes amenity center, to include a clubhouse and swimming pool and an addition to a lake, said Joe Brinn, a managing member of the group.

Last month, the group bought Hilton Head Lakes, which members of the group were already developing. It was not in financial trouble, Brinn said.

The group also bought the golf course and other developed areas of Tradition Hilton Head, originally planned to include more than 5,000 acres of commercial and residential development, which has been run by a court-appointed receiver since lenders began foreclosure last year.

The two developments were among 15 coastal residential and commercial properties the group bought, many of them near Myrtle Beach. Combined, the properties include more than 7,390 acres, 725 developed lots, 7,245 partially developed lots and 15,519 permitted lots. The sales prices were not disclosed.

Because SBI acquired its portion of Tradition without loans and while the property was in foreclosure, the group should be well positioned as the housing market recovers, MacDonald said. It will be able to sell lots at lower prices than the development's previous owners. Lots that once cost $180,000 could now go for 40 percent less, MacDonald said.

"Hopefully, we purchased at a discount," MacDonald said. "If we can (offer cheaper lots), hopefully we will generate some sales velocity that will work."

Tradition was to include 9,500 homes, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, recreational areas, school sites and expanded emergency services facilities when developers, politicians and city workers unveiled it in 2005 under the name Tradition, S.C. About 30 homes were built as of May.

In January, National Bank of South Carolina sought to foreclose on about a third of the project, saying developer Core Communities owed more than $25 million on a $50 million loan.

Hardeeville officials then forbade the developer from building more until it met obligations to the city, including an agreement to pay $1 million toward a new fire station.

The rest of the development remains caught in a separate foreclosure case, Hardeeville city attorney David Tedder said.

Hilton Head Lakes, whose entrance features an array of cascading waterfalls across from Tradition's twin 80-foot spires, is planned to include more than 2,400 homes, 155 acres of navigable lakes and more than 452 acres of nature preserve.

Six homes have been built, and construction will begin on others within 60 days, Brinn said.