Armed with a new, lower appraisal, the Maryland Stadium Authority is offering $3.5 million less for the massive B&O warehouse than it offered the warehouse owners in 1989, court documents show.
An appraisal of $7.5 million has been approved for the Camden Yards property by the State Highway Administration Bureau of Appraisals. The new appraisal is $3.5 million less than an $11 million appraisal made by the same firm, JDC Appraisal Services Glen Burnie, in 1989.
In response to the first appraisal, the authority placed $11 million in an escrow account pending a condemnation lawsuit on the matter. The owners of the building at 601 S. Eutaw St. are seeking at least $18 million for the property, an attorney for the owners said.
So far, the authority has paid for six appraisals in its effort to acquire the warehouse on the site of the new baseball stadium under construction.
Architects have designed the northern part of the warehouse overlooking the playing field to hold offices for the Orioles and the authority. It also is to hold restaurants, souvenir shops and ticket booths.
The various warehouse appraisals are central to the condemnation suit between the stadium authority and Harbor Exchange Inc., the warehouse owners who are local developers Morton Macks and Willard Hackerman.
The issues of the suit are to be heard in a non-binding "minitrial" March 5 before Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan. A jury trial on the suit is scheduled to start April 1.
Authority officials and Robert Douglas, a private attorney hired by the authority to help litigate the case, disclosed all the appraisals yesterday.
Douglas, the former press secretary to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, revealed that the authority had three appraisals made last year on the 430,000-square foot building. The authority kept the appraisals secret until yesterday because of the pending lawsuit, he said.
Two other appraisals -- for $10 million and $11 million -- were made on the warehouse in 1988 and 1989, said authority Deputy Director Ed Cline. And a sixth appraisal -- the highest at $15.8 million -- also was made on behalf of the authority, Douglas said.
The 1990 appraisals are less than the 1988 and 1989 appraisals, Cline said, because the authority wanted new appraisals that are based on the owners' incomplete plans to convert the warehouse to a retail outlet and that reflect "updated construction-cost estimates."
The appraisals are based on the value of the warehouse before the 85-acre Camden Yards site was designated as the location of a sports complex to include a baseball stadium and a football stadium if a National Football League franchise returns to Baltimore.
Macks and Hackerman, the latter a close friend and political supporter of Schaefer, purchased the warehouse in 1983 for $4.6 million. Court records show they planned to convert the warehouse into a discount retail outlet and spend $29.6 million to renovate the building.
Those plans were scrapped after Aug. 5, 1986, when Schaefer declared that the site would one day hold a new professional sports complex, the pre-trial documents show.
Ever since then, the value of the warehouse has been under dispute.
Shale D. Stiller, the attorney representing Harbor Exchange, said appraisals commissioned by his clients are incomplete, but should total about $18 million. "Ours are going to be a good deal higher than theirs," Stiller said of the incomplete appraisals.
Stiller noted that one of the authority's appraisals valued the warehouse at more than $15 million.
An undated document obtained by The Evening Sun shows that an appraisal of $15.8 million was made on the property by appraiser Donald Urquhart. Douglas said that Urquhart scaled back his appraisal on April 13, 1990 to $8.7 million.
However, Urquhart died last summer and his appraisals are no longer valid in the condemnation suit, Cline contended.
"He's passed away. He can't be cross-examined," Cline said.
The authority so far has paid $500,803 on appraisals of the warehouse and has spent another $42,653 on private legal fees to litigate the condemnation suit.
It will cost at least $15 million to renovate the northern portion of the warehouse, which will hold the offices and restaurants, and to sand blast the exterior of the entire building, Cline said.