Judge puts warehouse value at $12 million Negotiations set to settle dispute on B&O building.

April 16, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

The value of the B&O warehouse, designed to be an outfield beacon for the new baseball stadium in Camden Yards, was no more than $12 million, according to a formula approved by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan today.

Kaplan's complex ruling came after four days of testimony over conflicting warehouse appraisals commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the warehouse's former owners, Morton Macks and Willard Hackerman.

Both sides were trying to compute the exact value of the warehouse after Kaplan issued his ruling. Macks and Hackerman, who formed the partnership Harbor Exchange to renovate the building into a retail and office center, had sought $18 million for the warehouse, which they purchased in 1983 for $4.6 million.

The authority's lowest appraisal was $7.5 million, but the state agency placed $11 million for the property in an escrow account in 1989 when it condemned the building and acquired it through a "quick-take" action.

Kaplan's ruling is not binding. The mini-trial was an attempt to settle the dispute without a costly jury trial. The judge will meet with both parties at 2 p.m. tomorrow in a final negotiating session. If the effort fails and a trial is held, it is expected to last two months and cost $1 million per side, said Shale D. Stiller, attorney for Harbor Exchange.

Kaplan said that in order to determine the value of the property on Dec. 4, 1986 -- one day before newspaper accounts listed the Camden Yards site as the lead property choice in the city for a new stadium for the Orioles -- the property should be valued at $12 per square foot and would cost $19 million in renovation expenses.

When applied to a Harbor Exchange appraiser's worksheet, those figures equal less than $8 million, authority lawyer Frank Burch said. But Harbor Exchange attorneys said their calculations showed the value at $12 million.

"They tried their best to make the project go" before 1986, Kaplan said. "Their Achilles heel was that they had an unsuccessful project in 1984 and then in 1985 they were trying to do something in downtown Baltimore and they had a physical plant with a number of problems."

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