23 commercial properties to be sold at auction

April 15, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

Nearly two dozen commercial properties, including the site of the old Tower Building downtown, will be auctioned June 7 as a marketing tool used to move distressed properties in other cities makes its Baltimore debut.

"What we are selling is the amount of exposure properties will receive," said Andrew J. A. Chriss, a broker for Manekin Corp. of Baltimore, which will run the auction in tandem with Michael Fox Auctioneers Inc. of Pikesville. "We think it's great for buyers and great for sellers."

Mr. Chriss said the format is designed in part to appeal to financial institutions trying to sell off surplus real estate they have foreclosed on during the recession. The 23 properties listed include two Columbia office buildings repossessed by Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Co. from developer Patrick McCuan and four properties taken back by the Bank of Baltimore.

Two more of the properties are being offered by entities associated with the Manekin family, whose patriarchs Bernard Manekin and Harold Manekin, founded the company in 1946. One is a waterfront development site on Boston Street in Canton, next to the Anchorage townhouse and condominium community, and the other is the Tower site, which was bought from the state after the 1985 collapse of Old Court Savings & Loan.

The company had planned to build a Class A office building on the Tower site, at Guilford Avenue and East Baltimore Street, similar to the Manekin-built Bank of Baltimore building a block away. But the recession brought commercial development to a halt, and Manekin was one of the unsuccessful bidders to build a new police headquarters when the company offered the site to the city in 1992. The department eventually chose to expand and renovate the current headquarters instead.

Harold Manekin said yesterday that the company still has the historic clock from the exterior of the old Tower Building in storage. The timepiece was erected when Maryland Casualty Co. built the 20-story Tower Building in 1912, and for decades was a landmark clearly visible from various parts of the city. Its breakdown and subsequent repair in 1970 prompted months of newspaper stories, and it had been slated to be incorporated in the new building on the site.

Eight of the 23 properties in the auction are undeveloped land, which has been the most difficult real estate asset to sell during the recession because its value depends on the ability to develop it in a depressed market.

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