Value of B&O warehouse debated Judge to issue non-binding decision on value of stadium warehouse.

April 12, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Three days after he purchased the B&O warehouse for $4.6 million on Dec. 30, 1983, the value of the historic building jumped to $12 million, said former owner Morton Macks.

"You made one hell of a buy," said Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan.

Macks said the reason the Camden Yards building's value rose so rapidly was because he already had city permits and construction plans in hand to renovate the warehouse.

And, Macks contends that, since 1984, the structure's value has increased even more -- to $18 million. He and a team of lawyers are trying to convince Kaplan of that during a "mini-trial" in Baltimore Circuit Court.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, which condemned the building and took over ownership in December 1989, is contending that the warehouse is worth $7.5 million, based on numerous appraisals of the site by private consultants.

On Tuesday, Kaplan is to issue a non-binding judgment, which is to be followed by a negotiating session Wednesday. If the authority and Macks cannot agree on a selling price, the issue will be retried before a jury this summer.

Macks and his partner, construction magnate Willard Hackerman, purchased the building in December 1983 and planned to turn the 51-foot wide, 1,116-foot-long warehouse into a discount outlet and office complex under the name Harbor Exchange.

But, on Jan. 16, 1985, a newspaper article that identified Camden Yards as a preferred site for a new sports complex changed their plans, Macks testified.

"I got a pain in the pit of my stomach when that article appeared," Macks said. "On January 17, I made the decision to preserve all options."

Those options included continuing to market the building as a retail-office center, although Macks said potential tenants shyed away from renting at Harbor Exchange because of reports that the site was a top choice for a new stadium.

Nevertheless, Macks said, he applied for low-interest state and federal loans to renovate the building and had commissioned marketing studies and engineering and construction plans for the $25 million renovation.

Since the state took over the warehouse, architects have designed office space for the authority and for the Orioles in the northern half of the building. The warehouse will serve as an outfield landmark for the new stadium, which is to open next April.

The southern half of the warehouse may hold offices for the StateHighway Administration or be renovated and leased to private developers. Historic Camden Station and the parcel east of the warehouse also is to be leased to private developers.

The authority has hired a team of private attorneys for the mini-trial at a cost of about $190 an hour for lead attorney Frank Burch, of Piper & Marbury. In January, the authority reported that it had paid the firm $42,653 in legal bills for the case. The funds are paid from a land acquisition fund that is subsidized by state lottery revenues, said Bruce Hoffman, authority executive director.

Three independent appraisers hired by the authority have charged about $50,000 to survey the warehouse in preparation for the trial, Hoffman said. In addition, the authority hired two real estate consultants to review the appraisals and the Harbor Exchange plans. One of those consultants, James B. McComb, of Minneapolis, charged the state $30,000 for his services.

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