Harrison's owes city back taxes Hotel-restaurant $1 million in arrears

June 26, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

For the third year in a row, the owners of Harrison's Pier V, the financially troubled Inner Harbor hotel and restaurant, have failed to pay their property taxes to the city, according to Baltimore tax records.

They now owe $1.1 million in back property taxes with interest, according to city records.

In addition, the owners owe the city $1 million in overdue payments on loans and on their lease of the prime waterfront land they rent from the city.

The heavily subsidized hotel-restaurant, just east of the National Aquarium, opened in June 1989 with a 71-room inn and a waterfront restaurant resembling a lighthouse.

It's owned by a joint venture of the Harrison Family Organization, headed by Eastern Shore millionaire Buddy Harrison, and James I. Humphrey Jr., a Silver Spring developer.

Mr. Harrison and Mr. Humphrey did not return a reporter's calls. Another partner, Richard McGee, declined comment.

The city has been unable to collect the back taxes by putting the property up for auction at its annual May tax sale because the city owns the land that the hotel-restaurant occupies, said Ottavio Grande, assistant city collector.

In addition to the unpaid taxes and loans, the city is liable for a $6.6 million guarantee on Harrison's first mortgage because the owners are in default.

The bank that held the mortgage, the National Bank of Washington, was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. City officials have been negotiating with the FDIC for more than a year in hopes of avoiding paying out on the guarantee.

"The city is waiting for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to inform us of how they want to handle the workout of the project," said Mike Seipp, executive vice president of the city's Baltimore Development Corp.

J. W. Devine, congressional specialist for the FDIC in Chicago, said, "We are in good-faith negotiations with the parties and we are hopeful for an amicable settlement."

He declined to give details of the negotiations.

While Harrison's is behind in nearly all its taxes and loans, the owners have paid on one loan to the city. Records show they paid $81,120 this year.

In an interview in February 1992, Mr. Humphrey said he and his partners were unable to pay loans or taxes because "we haven't generated enough income. We're running about 60 to 70 percent occupancy in the hotel. Even the restaurant has not been able to make money."

He blamed the operation's problems on its location just east of the Inner Harbor's main attractions and on poor access from the street.

When Harrison's was originally financed, the city gave the owners $5 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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