Architecture firm buys itself from foreignersIn an age of...


November 04, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney

Architecture firm buys itself from foreigners

In an age of international business, it might be a little surprising for a Baltimore architecture firm to buy its way out of a partnership with a firm that has offices in London and Toronto. But that's what has happened at D. I. Architecture Inc. and sister company D. I. Design and Development. Baltimore-based partners bought the U.S. operations back from Toronto-based D. I. Design and Development Consultants Ltd. and have renamed their business Development Design Group Inc., said Kayden Wood, senior vice president of DDG.

"They didn't cut us loose; we pushed the buyout," Mr. Wood said of the deal, announced this week. "The reason is, first, the parent company is in London and Toronto; there were five partners and they had three of them. The other problem was that the London and Toronto offices didn't offer the full services we did."

Foreign operations, he said, concentrated on work such as interior design and space planning, while the Baltimore arm has also offered architectural design of entire buildings.

But withdrawing from the foreign-based firm doesn't mean that the 50 staffers at the newly independent company will stop competing in the world market, Mr. Wood said. The new firm this week announced the opening of offices in Jakarta, Indonesia and in Paris.

"Probably 60 percent of our work is in foreign countries," Mr. Wood said. In fact, the firm has more work in Indonesia than in the United States right now.

Future construction contracts down 27%

The only numbers sorrier than George Bush's election returns in Maryland are the September figures for future construction contracts from the F. W. Dodge division of McGraw-Hill Inc.

The value of contracts awarded for work in future months fell 27 percent from September 1991, not a great time itself in the industry, to $396.7 million. Year to date, Maryland construction contracts are actually up 1 percent, as a 22 percent gain in residential construction has offset dormant commercial construction and flat spending for "non-building" projects such as roads and bridges.

Residential construction held its own in September; the value of residential contracts fell less than 1 percent compared to September 1991. But commercial construction is off 45 percent and non-building construction, much of it government work that can be scheduled to offset economic dips, is off 49 percent.

Page Boinest, spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, said the dip in non-building construction contracts is a bit of a mystery to state officials because Annapolis has been planning for relatively stable public construction spending.

"We're still building," she said. The state pays for such projects with general obligation bonds, she said, and state officials have not lowered the borrowing limits for such projects.

Developer offers lure to cautious renters

Everyone knows that the recession has kept some potential buyers from splurging for a home, and builders have come up with all kinds of incentives to move homes. But would you believe some apartment complexes are having the same problem?

Believe it, said Joe Fonte, president of Signature Management in Baltimore. The company recently rolled out incentives to fight a 10 to 11 percent vacancy rate at its 800-unit Carriage Hill Village in Randallstown.

The complex is offering to pay three months' rent for any tenants who lose their jobs during the term of a new lease, to pay moving expenses for new tenants, and to give a 30-day guarantee so dissatisfied tenants can cancel leases in their first month.

No other apartment developer is known to be offering such incentives in Baltimore. Other complexes, though, offer other perks, including first month's free rent.

"The reason we're doing it is that during the last year or so, we've found there's a lot of interest in Carriage Hill, but everyone was so concerned about economic conditions that people were hesitant to move," Mr. Fonte said. "We had consistently run 95 to 96 percent occupancy and in the last year or so we'd gone down to 89 or 90 percent."

Carriage Hill Village is the only one of Signature's five properties to offer the package. The other four, all downtown, don't need such boosts, he said.

Belt's Landing condos go back on market

They're ba-a-a-a-c-k. Some of them anyway.

The new developers of the Belt's Landing condominium project in Fells Point will put 16 units of the 102-unit complex back on the market this weekend. The move is a follow-up to their one-weekend sales blitz in September, when they sold 88 of the 92 units they took over from MNC Financial Inc. in August. (The other 10 homes had been sold before MNC completed its foreclosure on the original development team.)

Hirsh Goldberg, a spokesman for the new development team led by Elliott Sharaby and Joel Gamel, said the units are back on the market because the prospective buyers backed out of their deals or couldn't get financing.

Prices range from $89,000 for the cheapest one-bedroom units to $209,000 for a three-bedroom town house facing Fell Street. Four of the units are furnished models. The prices are much lower than before the foreclosure because Maryland National Bank sold the 92 units for only $4.2 million, more than $15 million less than the first development team owed the bank.

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