Judge sets formula for price haggling today over stadium site

April 17, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Pushed to the bargaining table by a Baltimore Circuit Court judge, lawyers for the Maryland Stadium Authority and for two of Baltimore's best-known developers will try today to settle on a price for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad warehouse, outfield landmark for the new Camden Yards stadium.

The owners of the building -- Morton J. Macks and Willard Hackerman -- have maintained it is worth $18 million. The stadium authority says it's worth $7.5 million.

For four days beginning last week, each side presented its case to Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan. Yesterday, in a non-binding opinion that he hopes will encourage settlement, the judge said the B&O building was worth "no more than $8 million" in October 1989, when the stadium authority took control.

But Judge Kaplan said the developers actually lost control of the project in December 1986, when the governor's commission announced it wanted to put a baseball stadium at the site. From that time forward, the owners could not attract tenants for what they envisioned would be an outlet mall and office building, the judge said.

"The property was really taken, as far as the court is concerned, in December of 1986," Judge Kaplan said.

He offered a formula for computing the property's worth: Before the publicity about a new stadium there, the Camden Yards warehouse -- 1,016 feet long and 51 feet wide -- was worth $12 a square foot and would have cost $19 million to renovate, Judge Kaplan said. The developers also could have claimed a tax credit on the historic building of about 10 percent, he said.

The judge left the arithmetic to the lawyers. Attorneys for each side returned to their computers to revise calculations on their appraisals and came up with very different figures.

Frank Burch, representing the Stadium Authority, said the judge's estimate brought the building's worth to "below $8 million."

But Shale Stiller, attorney for Mr. Hackerman and Mr. Macks, said his preliminary calculations put the value of the property at $12.5 million.

A partnership headed by Mr. Macks and Mr. Hackerman bought the warehouse in December 1983 for $4.6 million. They say they could have opened a successful outlet mall on the site but for the announcement that a stadium would be built there.

The Stadium Authority offered $11 million when it took control of the property in October 1989. The authority contends the project Mr. Macks and Mr. Hackerman say they planned to build was "hypothetical" and would not have succeeded because of the building's awkward shape and a poor retail market.

Judge Kaplan gave his opinion yesterday after listening to testimony in a "mini-trial" he called in an effort to encourage a settlement in the dispute.

If the parties cannot agree on a price in the talks that begin today, the case will go to trial in June, and a jury will decide how much to pay Mr. Macks and Mr. Hackerman.

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