Amicable separation

October 03, 1990

After years of broken promises and nearly $7 million in city loans and loan guarantees, Baltimore has finally managed to divest itself of its financial entanglement with the Belvedere Hotel. The issue was resolved this week when a U.S. bankruptcy judge, at city urging, approved a deal to sell the Belvedere for $5.5 million to a Florida developer who plans to convert the building to condominiums. Good luck to him.

Once a symbol of urban elegance, the Belvedere had fallen on hard times by the time William Donald Schaefter became mayor in the 1970s. Victor Frenkil, a builder who tried to revive its grand tradition as much as a labor of love as a business venture, restored most of the hotel's physical splendor but never succeeded in turning a profit. During much of the last decade the business remained afloat only by virtue of generous subsidies drawn from dwindling municipal coffers.

Yet Baltimore continues to have a compelling interest in the Belvdere's fortunes. As a principal anchor of the North Charles Street redevelopment corridor between Center Street and Mount Royal Avenue, the property is crucial to the continued viability of the surrounding neighborhoods, which are also home to some of the city's principal concert halls and theaters.

The city will receive $1 million in cash from the sale, along with the business' food and beverage operations, valued at about $4 million. If the city can get that when it sells the ventures it will have recouped most of its original investment. The Belvedere ought to be able to stand on its own now; the city should bid it an honorable, affectionate adieu.

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