Bank takes control of the Carousel

July 15, 1994|By David Conn | David Conn,Sun Staff Writer

The owner of the Carousel Hotel & Resort, which helped spark Ocean City's three-decade-long hotel and home construction boom, has turned the property over to its mortgage holder, the Bank of Baltimore.

The 22-story building at 118th Street was owned by a company led by Silver Spring developer Warren Halle, who bought it in 1986. The Carousel will continue to operate as usual, managers said yesterday, while the bank determines the repairs needed to prepare it for sale.

"I'd like to sell it . . . I'm not in the real estate business," said Wayne Edwards, an executive vice president at the Bank of Baltimore, which is owned by Baltimore Bancorp. The parent company itself is due to be sold this year, to First Fidelity Bancorp of Lawrenceville, N.J.

The hotel's deed was given to the bank in lieu of foreclosure on June 24, according to a statement from the Carousel. Mr. Halle paid $18.2 million for the property, said Renee Seiden, the hotel's sales and marketing director. The bank refinanced Mr. Halle's loan in 1988.

It remains a mystery why Mr. Halle decided to give up ownership of the Carousel rather than try to sell the complex. Mr. Halle did not return calls to his office yesterday.

Mr. Edwards would not say why Mr. Halle turned over the property, or whether the loan was in default. Another Bank of Baltimore executive told an Ocean City newspaper, O.C. Today, that Mr. Halle had never missed a payment, but that the loan had been renegotiated two years ago and that the steep cost of needed structural repairs to the parking garage was a factor in Mr. Halle's decision.

In addition to the garage, the bank must determine how many other "remedial actions" will be needed to get the property in shape for a buyer, Mr. Edwards said.

Brookshire Hotels Inc., of North Palm Beach, Fla., will continue to manage the hotel. Mr. Edwards said the Carousel has had a number of inquiries from potential buyers. He and hotel officials said business has been booming.

"We've been swamped," said Ms. Seiden. "This is probably one of the best summers Ocean City has ever seen." She said customers would notice no difference with the change in ownership.

The 22-story hotel has had a half-dozen owners since its opening in July 1962. The complex features 265 rooms and 190 condominiums, as well as an indoor swimming pool and fitness center, three tennis courts, two restaurants and a bar and an indoor ice skating rink.

The original hotel was built by Bobby Baker, a former aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson.

Mr. Baker originally built only the first three floors and added the fourth floor a year later in 1963. But even so, he was branded a gambler for constructing a hotel virtually in the middle of nowhere -- amid empty sand dunes seven miles north of Ocean City's northern boundary at the time, 42nd Street.

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