Repairs are needed, store owner to be told Robinson's eligible for loan money

September 18, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

C The county's urban renewal chief plans to meet today with an owner of the long-vacant Robinson's Department Store to advise him that the deteriorated Glen Burnie building has to be fixed up.

Victor Sulin said rather than put Easton lawyer Paul Jones and five other investors into a financial bind, he will tell Mr. Jones that the county will make what is called "scattered sites" money available to him to repair the 42-year-old building. The money is a loan and places a lien on the property.

Building code safety violations include huge windows that rattle and holes in the facade, said Mr. Sulin. Crumbling brick on the facade was replaced with cement and a broken window with plywood, but that goes against the Urban Renewal District code, Mr. Sulin said.

Mr. Sulin's decision to press for repairs comes as real estate agents try to turn the building into a market similar to Baltimore's popular Lexington Market within a year. Vendors would probably include a flower shop, news agency, shoe repair stand, a raw bar, produce market, and other food sellers.

"You can stop there and get flowers for your sweetheart, stop and have a few oysters," Tom Guckenberg, owner of Guckenberg Realty Inc., said this week. He said his Glen Burnie firm is studying how to renovate the concrete block building, how much to charge for rent and what combination of stores would work best.

Mr. Guckenberg and agent June Reed said they hope to capitalize on the building's location near the busy intersection of Ritchie Highway and Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, and take advantage of the popularity of similar markets elsewhere.

"We're in a good hub. We're near the courthouse, and people would love to have a place to do a little shopping and pick up something to eat," Ms. Reed said.

Likely customers, she said, would be senior citizens who live in the complex a block away, North County residents who shop in Baltimore and Annapolis, Glen Burnie residents who would love the convenience and people who are expected to arrive with light rail if the trains come into Glen Burnie's business district in several years.

The L-shaped building opens into a parking lot facing Ritchie Highway, and it has an entrance on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. It lacks a loading dock, but "mostly things would be going in there with hand trucks," Ms. Reed said.

The main floor has about 16,000 square feet of space for vendors; the basement, about 3,000 square feet, could be used for cold storage; upstairs, 3,500 square feet could be turned into administrative offices, Ms. Reed said.

Skylights would send natural light inside, and new sewer lines would have to go in to accommodate food stands, Mr. Guckenberg said.

The price tag on renovations will not be known until feasibility studies are done, probably the end of this year. Ms. Reed said that a few vendors have already expressed interest.

Mr. Jones said he cannot afford to make major repairs to the building only to have to rip them out for renovation. Still, he said he hopes to be able work with the county.

"This is the worst commercial market you'll ever see," he said. "This is not the time to beat up on owners of commercial buildings."

An investor group that included Mr. Jones bought Robinson's in 1989 for $650,000 and started to renovate it so that one partner could use it for his business, Mr. Jones said. But that fizzled when the partner went bankrupt. Then others in the partnership fell victim to the recession, leaving a shrunken group carrying it in a miserable economy.

With no tenant, Mr. Jones said, he can keep current with mortgage payments on Robinson's as long as he isn't forced to lay out much money to repair it. Since 1989, the partnership has put $70,000 into Robinson's, for repairs that range from a new roof to fixing the windows.

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