The developer that submitted the sole proposal for Bristol's downtown revitalization remains a mystery.
The only developer that sought the opportunity to remake the mall property was the Florida-based Heritage Financial Group, which may be run by a self-proclaimed millionaire who calls himself “the nation’s leading expert on making fast cash with quick turn real estate.”
It’s possible, too, that the company bills itself as “the one-stop provider of mobile and manufactured homes” in its hometown of Jacksonsville.
What little we know for sure is that the Los Angeles-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group submitted a comprehensive conceptual plan for the 17-acre former mall site on behalf of Heritage Financial Group of Jacksonville.
Jaime Parker, of Cielo, said Saturday that Heritage has “done a multitude of projects” over the years and doesn’t sell mobile homes.
Beyond that, he wouldn’t talk about the company that would, he said, “become the eventual purchasers and developers of this project.”
Florida's secretary of state lists on its website dozens of "Heritage Financial" firms in the Sunshine State, but the ones in Jacksonville all appear to list Ronald Legrand as their president.
Legrand runs a program that aims to teach those who sign up how to make moneyh in real estate.
“Before we go any further, let's clear one thing up,” he says on his chief website, “you may have heard it said that I’m a ‘Millionaire Maker.’ This is absolutely true. I’m personally responsible for helping many people rise into the world of the wealthy.”
On another site, Legrand promises, “I’ll Teach You TOTALLY Legal, Rarely Shared Secrets And Systems That Will Bring The Cash To YOU, So You Don’t Have To Jeopardize Anything To Get Started In The Real Estate Business. And No – You Don’t Use Your Own Money – You Use Someone Else’s… For FREE!”
Legrand calls himself “just a simple auto mechanic with a redneck background who barely got out of high school” but discovered how to make money buying and selling houses. He claims to have sold more than 1,600 homes over the past 25 years.
It’s unclear, though, whether he has anything to do with the proposal made in Bristol.
However, the only other Heritage Financial Group listed in Jacksonville appears to be a mobile home dealer.
“At Heritage Financial Group we are reliable and committed to serving all of your mobile and manufactured home dealer needs,” a mobile home dealers’ website says.“We strive to offer a high level of service and quality in everything we do,” the advertisement-type website proclaims.
“That’s not them,” Parker said of the mobile home seller. He could not be reached again later about the possible Legrand connection.Paradise Village Mobile Homes is listed at the same address in Jacksonville.
Calls to Heritage Financial, Paradise Village and Legrand were not returned Saturday.
What’s in a name?
The paperwork submitted to Bristol lists the developer as Heritage Financial Group, Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla.
The Florida secretary of state has one firm that matches that name, listing its address as 9799 Old St. Augustine Rd. in Jacksonville.
Its president is listed as Ronald F. Legrand of 5490 Greenland Road, Jacksonville. Legrand is a real estate investment guru who writes books, gives speeches, provides seminars and the like to global Publishing, Inc. lists its address as 9799 Old St. Augustine Road in Jacksonville.
In addition to the records at the Florida secretary of state’s website, there is a listing on a mobile home dealers’ website for Heritage Financial Group at 10201 W. Beaver St. in Jacksonville, the same address that also houses Paradise Valley Mobile Homes on the city of Jacksonville’s website.
There is no clear connection between the mobile home dealer and Legrand’s company except there appear to be no corporate records filed in Florida for any other Heritage Financial in Jacksonville.
Bristol officials say they’ll do their homework
The chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. said the plan that Heritage Financial backed appears to be a good one.
“It’s a wonderful proposal,” Johnson said Saturday. “Now we just have to see if it’s a viable proposal.”
Johnson said that the downtown corporation, a nonprofit created last year by the city, will look into Cielo and Heritage Financial as part of its normal background investigation to see if they have the fiscal strength to carry out the project.
“There are a whole lot of things” that will need to be checked out, Johnson said.
Johnson said the downtown company won’t pick a preferred developer until its members are convinced there’s a solid plan with solid prospects for panning out.
“The logical step now is for us to do the due diligence,” Johnson said.
If it turns out that the firms involved in the only proposal the corporation received aren’t up to it, Johnson said, “then we’re back to square one.”
If that happens, officials will see if they need to revise the ideas they asked for in the bidding documents to try to get more companies to seek the job.
Johnson said he was disappointed that only one proposal came in.
He said he thought the scale of the project was likely too big for local developers such as Carpenter or D’Amato construction companies, but he said he figured that some major New England developers or others elsewhere in the country might be interested.
Johnson said that after shelling out $20,000 for national advertising, it’s a shame the only bidder is a company that was already eyeing Bristol.
Bidder explains his role
The man who submitted the only proposal for the former downtown mall site said Saturday he was surprised to learn he had no competition.
Jaime Parker of the Los Angeles-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group said he’s been keeping an eye on the Bristol property for several years, waiting for the moment when something could be done with it.
At first, he said, the 17-acre site “was pretty much tied up in some political stuff,” but when Art Ward took office he saw that a new alignment existed that would allow progress.
Parker said he began by talking in-depth to Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, and then moved on to discuss the project with many others.
The end result was the ability create a “life-work-play” concept for the site that met many of the suggestions the community has made for the property over the years, he said.
Parker said his own role is not to serve as a developer.
Instead, he said, “what we do is find opportunities” and then try to line up “the best developer, the best architect, the best builder” to make projects become a reality.
Parker said the plan is merely conceptual and none of the retailers, restaurants or other details are set in stone. They are mentioned merely to illustrate the ideas that would drive the final planning, he said.
“This is the kind of direction we see,” Parker said, using broad strokes rather than details that might be tossed aside.
“It’s the overall concept that’s important here,” he said.
The final plan would be worked out in concert with the city, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., the state and the developer, Parker said.
“A lot of echoing back and forth” is needed before that can be done, he said.
The mix of retail, housing and offices is yet to be determined, Parker said, and so are the civic improvements contained in the plan.
Frank Johnson, the chairman of the BDDC, said that much depends on who’s expected to pay for what in any plan.
In any case, Parker said his role is largely over as soon as preferred developer is chosen.
He is, in essence, earning a living serving as a scout for developers, to find project possibilities and figure out what’s needed to make them happen.
Whether the Depot Square concept he proposed in Bristol will come to pass will become much more clear in the coming weeks.
Click here for 14-page PDF of the mall site plan submitted Friday by the L.A.-based Cielo Real Estate Investment Group, working for Heritage Financial Group of Florida, the developer
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Contact Steve Collins at email@example.com