After completing just one sale in more than three years of marketing, developers of the $30 million, 102-unit Belt's Landing condominium complex in Fells Point abruptly halted all construction activity and shut down their sales office this week, leaving subcontractors with no idea about when, or if, work might resume.
The halt in construction came less than a month after Trammell Crow Residential terminated an agreement to handle marketing for the development team, a group headed by Timonium-based Contractor Frank F. Favazza. Trammell Crow Partner J. Joseph Clarke said that his firm had not been paid in three months and "couldn't go on working for nothing."
Two other companies involved in the project, Martin G. Imbach Inc. and Ross Murphy Finkelstein, recently filed liens against the developers, seeking total payments in excess of $125,000. Others say they intend to do so.
"A lot of people in the trades are being hurt by this," said Mark Krabitz, vice president of Pittsburgh Professional Painting Supply, which claims it is owed $24,000 and also plans to file a lien. "It's a major project sitting idle, and a lot of people are holding the bag. We can't get any answers out of anyone, and that's frustrating."
"It's like trying to follow Iraq. You don't know what's going on from one day to the next," said Jane Springer, a retired social worker and the only buyer who has gone to settlement on a unit. "It's all thrown up in the air."
The recent legal activity indicates that Belt's Landing is the latest of several waterfront developments to experience financial troubles, due to problems ranging from the recessionary economy to poor design.
The Scarlett Place and Henderson's Wharf condominiums and the Washington Square town houses all have gone up for auction in the past three years after unsuccessful sales campaigns.
Neither Mr. Favazza nor his attorney, Isaac Neuberger, could be reached for comment.
According to documents on file with the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland National Bank, the construction lender, initiated legal action in July to collect the unpaid balance of a $19.5 million loan that came due in mid-1991. But the claim was dismissed earlier this month, after the bank's attorneys agreed to drop their claim for immediate payment of $19,436,659.66.
Also this summer, attorneys for Mr. Favazza's team, Fell Street Joint Venture, filed suit against at least five individuals or groups that backed out of agreements to buy residences in the project, asking the Circuit Court to force them to proceed with their acquisitions.
Attorneys for several of the buyers, in turn, filed countersuits claiming that the developers did not deliver the units on time and in some cases made "substantial and unacceptable changes in the layout and design of the units." Several also accused the developers of failing to supply parking spaces that they agreed to provide.
The six-level Belt's Landing project includes 85 condominiums, 7 town houses along Fells Street and 10 town houses that rise on land jutting into Baltimore's harbor. Prices ranged from $90,000 for the smallest condominiums to about $150,000 for the Fell Street town houses to $300,000 for the waterfront town houses to $500,000 or more for the penthouses. Trammell Crow was the fourth sales agent for the project.
Mr. Clarke, of Trammell Crow, said that his office severed all ties with the project Sept. 1. He declined to say how much his company is owed by the development team. He said when he left, the project was drawing "excellent [sales] traffic" and that sales representatives were writing more than one contract per week.
But he said the developers could not go to settlement because liens have been filed against them.