Stadium agency OKs $11 million for B&O building

April 27, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

With a Baltimore Circuit Court judge serving as an arbitrator, the Maryland Stadium Authority has agreed to pay two well-known Baltimore businessmen $11 million for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad warehouse, the building that will be a landmark at the new Camden Yards ballpark.

A partnership headed by Morton Macks and Willard Hackerman bought the 1,016-foot-long building for $4.6 million in December 1983. The men wanted $18 million for the property now. The Stadium Authority said it was worth $7.5 million.

"I think they're all happy that it's over," said Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, who had brought together the two sides in an effort to avoid a long jury trial that would have determined the price.

"Obviously, the owners felt they were entitled to more," Judge Kaplan said. "Nobody's entirely happy. But that's the way cases are settled."

The owners contended that their plans to turn the property into an outlet mall and office building were killed in December 1986, when a state panel selected Camden Yards as the site for a new stadium.

The Stadium Authority, however, said that the awkward shape of the long, narrow building, a less-than-desirable location and a sagging economy had doomed the project before the area was selected as a stadium site.

The authority plans to put team offices, a museum, party suites and other facilities in the warehouse.

Both sides said they might have won a better figure had the case gone to trial, but each conceded the legal costs might have outweighed any benefit.

Shale Stiller, attorney for the owners of the warehouse, said the trial could have lasted two months and cost each side $1 million.

The warehouse owners were satisfied with the settlement, Mr. Stiller said, as they had invested $11 million "almost on the nose" in costs, including architectural and engineering fees, asbestos removal and other planning.

Bruce H. Hoffman, executive director of the Stadium Authority, said he interpreted the $11 million price as $8.7 million for the property plus 8 percent interest from December 1986, when the state selected Camden Yards as the stadium site, to October 1989, when the state took control of the warehouse.

"I think that's an excellent settlement," Mr. Hoffman said. "I guess it's one of those deals where we both worked our ways to the middle."

With the $11 million payment, Mr. Hoffman said, the authority is $2 million to $3 million under its $99.7 million budget for property acquisition. The new Orioles ballpark is scheduled to be finished next February.

"The court is very pleased that the parties are willing to abide by its decision and that the taxpayers are not going to be burdened with a lengthy and very costly . . . jury trial," Judge Kaplan said yesterday morning.

Earlier this month, Judge Kaplan brought the two sides into his courtroom for a "mini-trial" that ran four days. At its close, the judge, in a non-binding opinion, found the building to be worth $10 million to $12 million.

Since then, he hosted two negotiating sessions, resulting in yesterday's settlement.

The Maryland Stadium Authority took control of old B&O warehouse under state condemnation laws in October 1989, when the building's owners rejected an $11 million offer, insisting the property was worth $18 million.

Following state law, the authority deposited $11 million with the court, which the owners were free to withdraw. Last January, the authority revised its estimate of the warehouse's value, saying it was worth only $7.5 million.

"Since $11 million was deposited by the Stadium Authority in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in October 1989, and that money was withdrawn by the owners in accordance with the law at that time, no further payment will have to be made by the stadium authority to obtain this property," Judge Kaplan said.

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