Developer scoops up five 7-Eleven storesThe watchword of...

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

December 16, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney and Edward Gunts

Developer scoops up five 7-Eleven stores

The watchword of optimists in recessions has always been to buy assets while their value is down. Baltimore County real estate broker/developer Carl Verstandig is no exception.

Mr. Verstandig's Convenience Mart Inc. has bought five 7-Eleven stores from Southland Corp., which has been shedding stores as part of a restructuring. Located in West Baltimore, Rosedale, Gibson Island and Oxon Hill, they join the company's first store at Ponca and Exeter streets in Baltimore under the Food Stop Mini Mart name.

"The timing was there, and we took advantage," Mr. Verstandig said. He said the company hopes to expand to 25 stores over the next few years.

Company to help cities tackle economic woes

After working for 12 1/2 years to help rejuvenate Baltimore as an executive of its quasi-public redevelopment agency, Jeff Middlebrooks is launching a consulting firm to help revive other cities.

Mr. Middlebrooks, executive vice president in charge of downtown development for the Baltimore Development Corp., plans to leave his job Jan. 15 to open CityWorks Inc. The for-profit consultancy will help cities and neighborhoods develop strategies to overcome economic distress.

CityWorks' first client is Cambridge, Md., a town of 11,500 for which Mr. Middlebrooks has been working as a private consultant "at nights and on weekends" since last spring. Mr. Middlebrooks, 50, will work in the offices of LDR International, a Columbia-based land planning firm that is also working on the Cambridge project.

Signs indicate construction upswing

The signs of a recovery in construction -- even the hard-hit nonresidential sector -- continue to trickle in. One of the latest, the October building permit statistics released yesterday by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, shows that the value of local commercial building permits rose 119 percent over last October.

Nonresidential permits cover projects with an estimated value of $27.3 million, the council reported. As in recent months, many major projects are for government or nonprofit institutions such as hospitals. A $6.5 million elementary school on Hillendale Heights Road tops the list.

Housing permits also rose, the council reported, but only slightly. Developers took out permits for 875 residential units, compared to 834 last year. But that's still not great -- 1,076 permits were issued in October 1990.

Builder begins project in sultry San Juan

One Maryland development company that has had its problems during the recession is striking out for warmer climes.

Interstate General Co. L.P. has won zoning approval for its proposed $500 million, 2,900-home development on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The St. Charles-based homebuilder and land development company said it will invest $8.2 million before the first house goes on the market sometime in 1994.

"The Puerto Rican economy parallels that of the United States, but the recession didn't hit nearly as hard as it did here," said Gregory TenEyck, a spokesman for Interstate General. For example, Interstate General opened a seven-story office building in San Juan last year and was able to lease it within a year.

IGC can stand a little sun. It recently agreed to sell its stake in one of its biggest development projects, a planned community in Northern Virginia, to restructure a bank loan. Its earnings fell with the recession and its partnership units trade at about $3 on the American Stock Exchange, well below pre-recession levels.

Auctioneer's bash is swanky but ironic

It seemed like one of those grim ironies that comes at the end of a recession. But Ray Nichols swears it wasn't a joke.

Mr. Nichols, the ex-banker who runs BSC Financial Group and its most visible affiliate, Atlantic Auctions Inc. in Baltimore, threw his company's holiday party last week at the Center Club, the USF&G building preserve that is a lunchtime place to see and be seen.

So, is the real estate market so bad that auctioneers are throwing the best holiday party in town? It's not really like that, Mr. Nichols said.

"Our auction business wasn't as good as it's been in past years," he said. There are lots of auctions, but not enough buyers, he said. "I think everybody had a so-so year."

BSC's other businesses, which include managing repossessed assets for banks, have been doing better than the auction business, Mr. Nichols said.

RTKL wishes clients a merry New Year

RTKL Associates Inc. has its own holiday problem: When you have offices on three continents and do business on another one or two, how do you send season's greetings to clients who are from places where Christmas and Hanukkah are practically unknown?

Enter the Baltimore architecture firm's origami-like New Year's cards, which are arriving at offices of RTKL clients and contacts near you.

"We send it to the Middle East and everywhere else too. . .," said Kurt Haglund, assistant to RTKL Chairman Harold Adams. "The one thing most countries have in common is the New Year."

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