Brokerage purchase OK'd children's museum to move downtown

December 24, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved the city's $5 million purchase of The Brokerage, a perennially ailing office and retail complex on Market Place downtown, and moving the Cloisters Children's Museum there from its city-owned site in Baltimore County.

"It's a good deal. It's a good facility that gives us a valuable piece of land in the Inner Harbor," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "I think we have, in that area, some problems right now. But we've got some . . . wonderful opportunities."

Mr. Schmoke said he viewed the site as "an exciting prospect" for a new Baltimore Children's Museum -- an outgrowth of a merger, announced yesterday, of the Cloisters operation with Maryland Children's Museum Inc., a nonprofit group that had proposed a museum two years ago for the Power Plant site at the Inner Harbor.

Spurring on that merger was the promise of a $300,000 grant for the new museum from the nonprofit Abell Foundation, provided the children's center was located at The Brokerage.

Mr. Schmoke said the three-acre site also presents an opportunity for an "African-American presence" at the Inner Harbor in the form of a center that could include a relocated Eubie Blake Cultural Center from its current location at 409 N. Charles St.

In the deal approved yesterday, the city would acquire the 9-year-old Brokerage complex -- a two-level mall of shops, bars and restaurants; a 276-car garage; office space atop the garage; and an office building annex at the southeastern edge of the central business district, bounded by Baltimore Street, Market Place, Water Street and Frederick Street.

The site would be purchased with $5 million generated by the sale of off-street parking general obligation bonds previously approved by voters for financing or purchasing parking facilities.

The principal and interest on the bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the city, are repaid with tax revenue.

According to figures of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development arm negotiating the deal, the parking garage at The Brokerage is now generating $300,000 a year -- enough money to repay the bond debt.

The Brokerage is now owned by BA Properties Inc., the real estate disposal subsidiary of the Bank of America, which took control of the site for $8 million at a January 1991 auction. The Bank of America had foreclosed on the previous owner, Sovereign Realty 1983-XVIII Limited Partnership, claiming it was

owed $53 million.

The city originally had planned to purchase only the garage at The Brokerage, but BA Properties threw in the rest of the site -- which it had been unable to sell -- as part of the deal, Mr. Schmoke said.

An earlier private offer for the property would have leveled the site -- part of which is occupied by an ornate mall made up of 22 historic buildings -- for a surface parking lot, the mayor said.

Prior to the board's approval, city officials handling the deal had been mute about plans for the development -- the largest privately owned site downtown. But after the vote, they were ebullient about the deal.

"I think it's a great find," said Honora M. Freeman, president of the Baltimore Development Corp. "It's a Christmas present."

It remained unclear yesterday what will happen to the Cloisters site on Falls Road in Baltimore County, once the children's museum moves.

City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said no decision had been made on what to do with the property, which was donated to the city with certain restrictions on its uses.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.