The city of Baltimore has foreclosed on the N. M. Carroll Health Care Facility, casting doubt on whether the financially troubled West Baltimore project will ever be operated by the community-based developers who struggled to build the nursing home.
Strapped by its own financial problems, the city is seeking to take over the building in the 1000 block of Gilmor St. in an effort to recoup the $3.4 million it lent the project in 1987, said Nelson R. Stewart, an attorney representing the community-based developers who ran out of money last year and couldn't finish the job.
"The city says they are in such dire financial straights they need the money back and N. M. Carroll can't open up unless they get additional money," said Mr. Stewart, who recently joined the efforts to save the project. "What the city wants to do is put it on the market and let the best deal come and recoup as much money as they can."
The N. M. Carroll Health Care Facility was to be the first community-based, minority-owned and -operated nursing home in West Baltimore. The facility, for which Methodist churches began collecting money more than 25 years ago, was to serve 140 elderly poor.
But the owner of the project -- a community, non-profit corporation associated with the successful N. M. Carroll Manor senior citizens complex -- outspent its budget of $7.3 million. It owes money to a variety of creditors, including contractors who walked off the job in June.
"They did everything they could to realize this dream they had," Mr. Stewart said of the owners. "They really didn't have proper leadership. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on experts and the experts basically didn't deliver."
Mr. Stewart said legal fees associated with the project totaled about $600,000.
Since last year, city officials have claimed that they have been working with the group to find a way to finish the building, which is 95 percent complete, and open it.
But April 1, the city filed the notice to foreclose in Baltimore Circuit Court. City officials familiar with the project were not available for comment late yesterday.
A spokesman for the city housing agency, Bill Touhey, said the project "had some inherent risks when it started and in an economic recession those risks are amplified."
"Negotiations continue to try and find someone else to take over the facility. There is a player we are talking to," Mr. Touhey said.
James Ethridge, president of the proposed facility and the manager of the N. M. Carroll senior citizens complex, expressed disappointment yesterday at the city's decision. "I don't know what they gain. Maybe they have a buyer or something," Mr. Ethridge said.
Mr. Stewart said the owners of the health-care facility will have to decide now whether to file for bankruptcy "to get time so we can raise the money and take care of the city.
"They don't want the city to be out on a limb. They really need time," Mr. Stewart said. "We want to make sure that when the dust settles N. M. Carroll gets to open up this nursing home."