An auction of the Brokerage, the white elephant of Baltimore's Inner Harbor rejuvenation, brought no bidders as the bank holding a $53 million mortgage foreclosed and took ownership of the Victorian-style shopping mall and office center.
The mortgage holder -- B.A. Properties I Inc., a subsidiary of the Bank of America -- took back the Brokerage yesterday for its starting bid of $8 million.
James A. Cole, lawyer for B.A. Properties, refused to comment after auctioneer Joseph Cooper failed to summon any bidders from a crowd of about 50 curious onlookers in the elaborately decorated shopping mall at 34 Market Place across the street from the failed Fish Market entertainment complex.
Property manager Greg Pinkard later said the lack of bidders was no surprise. "With the real estate market what it is, people aren't taking risks on the 'R' word," he said, referring to "real estate."
Pinkard said about 65 percent of the retail and office space is now leased in the Brokerage and that the new owners have no plans for major changes.
"We want to put the stigma of the Brokerage behind us. The only way to go is up and the Bank of America views it that way," he said.
Just before the auction began, a small crowd gathered in the ornate mall with its Victorian street lights, stained glass, iron filigree and many empty shops. Elaborate architectural ornaments, monogrammed with the letter "B", graced the balconies and escalator.
When Cooper called for bidders to top the opening $8 million offer, everyone was silent. A winning bidder would have had to come up with a $1 million deposit within 60 days, according to the terms of the auction.
State tax assessors estimate the property is worth $13.3 million, according to tax records.
According to city tax records, the previous Brokerage owners -- called Sovereign Realty 1983-XVIII Ltd. Partnership -- owed $214,902 in back taxes for 1989. In addition, the tax liens for unpaid 1988 taxes and water bills were sold at tax sale last May for another $232,677.
A deed of sale cannot be recorded until back taxes are paid on the project, built eight years ago by a group of developers headed by Marc Horwitz as the center for the redeveloped Market Place, an area just northeast of the Inner Harbor.
Last March the owners filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act. After reorganization efforts failed, the mortgage holder moved in to foreclose and scheduled yesterday's auction.