The old Southern Hotel, a key part of the site on which the Trammel Crow Co. had announced plans to build the largest office tower in Baltimore, has been scheduled for foreclosure auction on April 17.
Steve Fox, who is handling the sale for Michael Fox Auctioneers Inc., said an ad in today's Wall Street Journal was the first notice of the scheduled sale of the building at Light and Redwood streets, directly across from the Maryland National Bank Building.
The auction was scheduled after Signet Bank foreclosed on Southern Hotel Limited Partnership.
Dirk Mosis, partner in charge of Trammel Crow's Baltimore office, said the giant Texas development company still planned to press ahead with the tower -- to be known as One Light Street -- although it has never taken title to the property, which it bought at a previous foreclosure auction.
Foreclosure papers filed Feb. 15 in Baltimore Circuit Court name Michael Yerman as general partner. Yerman was attending a family funeral and was unavailable for comment.
According to the foreclosure papers, the partnership owes a total of $6.7 million -- $6.3 million of which is the unpaid balance on a $6.5 million 1984 loan and the rest in late charges and interest.
"We remain optimistic that we will be able to put it all together," Mosis said, adding that Trammel Crow already either owned or had commitments to purchase all the other properties on the block. "I think the bank [Signet] will probably buy it because we control the site."
Title transfer was never completed because Trammel Crow had not yet found a lead tenant for the project, Mosis said.
Mosis described the project as being in a "holding pattern" while Trammel Crow pursued tenants for the 750,000-square-foot tower. So far, the law firm of Shapiro & Olander is the only prospective tenant, signing an agreement to lease 50,000 square feet.
Moses said Trammel Crow would not press forward until it had lease commitments for 50 percent of the space. Once it has secured those commitments, Mosis said, he expected Trammel Crow would be able to get the financing to complete the purchase of the property.
Robert Kleinpaste, president of Legg Mason Realty Group, said he thought that the project could succeed in time but that Trammel Crow needed a major out-of-town tenant.
"Eventually Baltimore is going to get someone from out of town," he said.
In the meantime, he agreed that Signet would be the likely buyer at the auction.
"I think Signet's best shot is to hitch their wagon to Dirk Mosis' star," he said.
David Gillece, head of Baltimore Economic Development Corp., said the city was confident that the project would be built.
"It's a setback in terms of it being a delay in the project but we are convinced Trammel is still commited," he said.
Gillece said the scale of the proposed tower was an important symbol for the city's stature.
"This kind of building distinguishes us from cities that aren't doing so well and from the suburbs," he said.