Post-'mini-trial' talks starting today on warehouse Session in judge's chambers on Camden Yards warehouse may lead to a price pact.

April 17, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

A private negotiating session today in the chambers of Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan may lead to the closing of a $10 million gap in the dispute over a purchase price for the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards.

Kaplan ruled yesterday that the Maryland Stadium Authority should pay for the warehouse using a complex formula that is based on an appraisal from a consultant hired by former warehouse owners Morton Macks and Willard Hackerman.

Hours after Kaplan ended a four-day "mini-trial" with his non-binding ruling, the authority interpreted the judge's formula to mean that it owes Macks and Hackerman between $3 million and $8 million for the historic building. The long, narrow warehouse is just beyond the outfield of the $104.5 million ballpark being constructed as the next home of the Orioles.

However, Macks and Hackerman figured that the state owes them $13 million for the building, which they purchased in 1983 for $4.6 million.

Originally, the developers planned to convert the warehouse into a retail and office center with a glass pavilion and parking lot for 300 cars.

The stadium authority offered them $7.5 million for the warehouse, while Macks and Hackerman sought $18 million.

The two sides were to try once more to hash out the difference in the negotiating session today in Kaplan's chambers. If there is no agreement, the matter will go to a lengthy and costly jury trial this summer.

Macks and Hackerman, a close political ally of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, argued that a Dec. 4, 1986, newspaper article stating that Schaefer favored the Camden Yards site for a new Orioles stadium killed their retail and office plans because no tenants would commit to the site.

But authority attorneys argued that attempts by Macks and Hackerman to develop the center were inconsistent and unlikely to succeed because of a floundering economy and stalled attempts to qualify for low interest federal and state development grants.

Kaplan said he believes that the owners were serious about developing the warehouse, but disagreed with their estimate that it would cost $12.7 million to renovate the warehouse safely.

The judge instead ordered that both sides deduct $19 million from the purchase price for renovation costs and then add 10 percent of the final figure to the price for a historic tax credit.

"The owners clearly had the staying power to make something of the building in the summer of 1985 when the market for outlet stores had improved," Kaplan said.

With regard to the stadium authority's plan to locate its own offices and offices for the Orioles and the State Highway Administration in the warehouse by the time the ballpark opens next April, Kaplan said the building will "certainly be no desirable place."

"We are talking about captive tenants," Kaplan said. "They are stuck with their building and they can force their own agencies to inhabit the building."

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