I know there’s been a lot to keep track of on Vantage Pointe, the biggest condo building to be built in downtown San Diego. Here’s a summary of our coverage of the fascinating story that’s been coming out of the yet-to-be-finished building.

In September, the building celebrated its topping-off as construction teams poured concrete for the top floors of the building. Market analysts told me the colossal project was worth following, as it has far more units than any other condo building in downtown San Diego. Vantage Pointe represents a bold, unprecedented effort — to build and release nearly 700 units in one building amid a market in the throes of a downturn. One veteran real estate analyst said the $210 million construction loan for the project was probably the biggest private sector loan for a single building in county history.

Market analysts see the project as a kind of bellwether for the downtown market, which is experiencing acute troubles after a period of great growth and revitalization.

“This is the project that everybody’s looking to see what’s going to happen,” said Robert Martinez, director of research for MarketPointe Realty Advisers, in that story in September. “It could be a giant success story, or it could be a disaster.”

The building has sold about 290 of the units, and buyers have put down a 5 percent nonrefundable deposit. That’s “a lot of money to walk away from,” one buyer told me.

Some of those Vantage Pointe buyers have been waiting a long time to move in, many having first placed dibs on their units in the heady days of spring 2004. Many joined an online message board where they’ve swapped tips and observations as the building has progressed.

Buyers reserving in 2004 imagined gazing at the views from their new living rooms by late 2006. But the project encountered several delays after breaking ground, including discovering contaminated soil, pushing the move-in date to May 2009. In the meantime, downtown’s real estate market has gone from frenzy to slump, with sales slowing, prices falling and foreclosures representing a significant portion of what’s selling every month

(My colleague Will Carless wrote a story in February 2006 examining issues that arose on the building when the developers, Calgary-based Pointe of View, changed their construction plans and raised the prices for some of the initial buyers.)

In October 2008, the developers said they had no official plans to rent out the units instead of selling them, despite a rumor that they might. Meanwhile, the buyers were learning that it was going to be very difficult to finance their units. Many of those financing questions still remain as of the beginning of May 2009.

And Al Thompson, Pointe of View’s vice president for construction, said in a television piece that the developers would not be lowering prices on the building, saying that a “fire sale” is not the answer.

The clock has been ticking for them and for the developers. The construction teams on the building have to finish the units that have pre-sold by a rolling set of deadlines that mark the point 42 months after the buyers signed their contracts. At those deadlines, if the units aren’t ready, the buyers can walk away from their commitments to buy the units without losing their deposits.

The developers announced in April that they planned to rent out some of the units during the sales process to “bring vibrancy” to the building.

And now, this is a big week for Vantage Pointe, as construction teams attempt to ready the units of nearly 75 buyers whose 42-month deadlines are coming this weekend. More than 120 more are due to hit their deadlines this month.

Stay tuned — we’ll keep you posted on this building as it progresses.

KELLY BENNETT

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