York Road parcel brings $8.8 million at auction Target Stores purchase worries some neighbors

September 24, 1998|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

One of the largest undeveloped pieces of commercial property on York Road was sold at auction yesterday to Target Stores, adding another major retailer to a busy corridor where residents already are concerned about congestion.

Target's parent company, Dayton Hudson Corp., bid $8.8 million for the 11-acre Texas site now used by Baltimore County for its public works crews, surprising county officials who had predicted the property would bring much less.

"It exceeded my expectations," said Robert J. Barrett, special assistant to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

Community leaders, who had feared the site in the 9900 block of York Road would be developed into a large car dealership, were circumspect about the sale even though they had expressed concerns about another large retailer in an area slated for a Metro Food Market.

"I hope they take measures that will make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible and coordinate the traffic on the road," said Kathleen F. Beadell, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, a group of 26 community associations.

The triangular slice of property, bordered by York and Almshouse roads and Galloway Avenue, is one of the largest undeveloped commercial tracts remaining on York Road. It has more than 870 feet of road frontage and is zoned for business use.

The county has owned the land for decades, using the site for various purposes, including road maintenance, sign painting and the storm headquarters for snow plowing operations. The county decided to auction the public works property last year because it had become old and inefficient.

Residents, who complain that the road is congested with car dealerships, gas stations, restaurants, strip shopping centers and the State Fairgrounds, had hoped the site could be developed into a park. But county officials decided the land was too commercially valuable for that.

Originally, the county had planned to seek proposals from developers interested in building on the site. Economic development officials had wanted to see a medical office,

financial institution or nonprofit agency on the site that would generate well-paying jobs.

But in the end, the site was most valuable as a retail location, and the county received inquiries from retail developers, car dealersand real estate brokers.

County officials decided to sell the property at auction in order to bring the most money to county coffers. Appraisals were no higher than $6 million. Yesterday's bidding started at $5 million but quickly passed $8 million.

Auctioneer Raymond C. Nichols, chairman of Atlantic Auctions, called the site "one of the most unique parcels" in the area. "You just don't find 11-plus acres of commercial property in a developed county," he said.

Among the 75 or so people at the auction were some of the biggest real estate developers in the county.

"If they dropped a bomb here, it would set real estate development back in the county 10 years," real estate lawyer Stuart Kaplow said, jokingly.

Thirteen bidders registered for yesterday's auction, but only three attempted to buy the property: Target, retired automobile dealer Louis Cohen and Peter G. Angelos, who dropped out early in the bidding.

In the end, it came down to Target and Cohen, the former owner of Allstate Leasing and the Heritage Automotive Group. Although neighbors had feared the large auto retailers CarMax and Auto-Nation would acquire the property, neither bid on it.

Target still will have to go through the county's development review process, but if its plans are approved, the store would join several other new big retailers in the area.

A Best Buy store is under construction on York Road in Lutherville. A Metro Food Market is planned for Ashland, north of Texas. Strip shopping centers recently have been built on York Road.

Barrett said the proceeds from the sale will cover the expenses of moving public works crews to new locations.

One of the two district highways yards is moving to Towson and the other is relocating near the Texas fire station. Other operations will move to a former aircraft manufacturing plant in Glen Arm or to a newer warehouse building in nearby Hunt Valley.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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