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La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa, the Former Del Lago Resort, at
Lake Conroe, Texas Expected to be Foreclosed On

Owners, French Quarter Group, Spent $130 million to Revamp Property


By Nancy Sarnoff, Houston ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 06, 2011--The former Del Lago Resort is expected to be foreclosed on Tuesday, three years after the Lake Conroe property reopened as an upscale hotel and spa.

A spokesman for the lender, Barclays Capital Real Estate, confirmed Monday that foreclosure proceedings were under way but said the resort will continue to operate without disruption.

"We are committed to ensuring a seamless transition," said Brandon Ashcraft of Barclays Capital in New York.

A document filed with the Montgomery County Clerk's Office claims the owner is in default on an $84 million loan for the property. The record provided notice that the development would be placed in a Dec. 6 foreclosure sale.

In 2007, an affiliate of the Atlanta-based French Quarter Group bought the 175-acre resort, which had fallen into disrepair in the years since it opened in the mid-1980s.

A $130 million revamp

The company spent $130 million to revamp the ailing lakeshore property, south of Walden Road, which was renamed La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa.

The developer modernized and enlarged the guest rooms and added such amenities as a Turkish bath, multiple swimming pools and a miniature golf course. The property's 18-hole golf course was upgraded by course designer Jeffrey D. Blume. Award-winning French chef Albert Roux created a fine-dining restaurant for the 445-room resort.

Contemporary resort

One of the goals was to turn the property into a contemporary resort similar to the Hyatt Hill Country or Hyatt Lost Pines, a consultant said after the property sold. Some expected it to position Conroe as a destination for families and tourists.

French Quarter Group could not be reached late Monday.

A spokeswoman for La Torretta resort said no changes are expected but declined to discuss the property further.

"Hotel management assures our guests, members, neighbors and business partners that there will be no impact to the resort experience, and we do not anticipate any changes on property," Jackie Carnero said.

Carnero and Ashcraft said Noble House Hotels & Resorts, the company that manages the property, will continue to operate it.

Hotel consultant Randy McCaslin said the property has had a hard time competing with other Texas resorts with bigger names in better locations.

"Lake Conroe is a nice lake, but compared to the Texas Hill Country, or even The Woodlands, it's just an inferior location that requires a brand to bring people there," said McCaslin, of PKF Consulting USA, which performed a market study for the owner prior to its purchase.

Moreover, the hotel opened as the economy was slipping into recession.

He expects the bank to sell the property but doesn't expect a change in ownership immediately.

"I don't think anything is going to happen until after the 2012 election," he said, predicting that many businesses will remain hesitant to invest before then.

nancy.sarnoff@chron.com

twitter.com/nsarnoff

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(c)2011 the Houston Chronicle

Visit the Houston Chronicle at www.chron.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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