Columbus Center sale wins approval of judge

January 05, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit judge approved the sale yesterday of the financially insolvent Columbus Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor to the University System of Maryland for $650,000.

Approving the deal in a brief two-page order, Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan overruled an objection to the sale filed by J. Stanley Heuisler, the former head of the marine biotechnology facility, who complained in court papers that the purchase price was too low.

John Lippincott, associate vice chancellor of the university, said he was pleased by the decision.

"The most important thing from our point of view is that the decision means that the home for [the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute's Center of Marine Biotechnology] is secure and we can continue doing the important research we've been doing," he said.

The biotechnology center occupies two-thirds of the building and conducts research in aquaculture and in Pfiesteria, the group of microorganisms responsible for fish kills on the Eastern Shore.

An attorney for Heuisler -- the only one of dozens of creditors to object to the sale -- expressed disappointment that the sale was approved without a hearing.

"We had thought a hearing might have been a useful thing to have," said Andrew Jay Graham, the attorney. "But if the court has ruled, the court has ruled."

In November, the university system agreed to buy the Columbus Center from the nonprofit corporation created to set up and run the facility. In addition to paying $650,000 for a long-term lease on the city-owned land on which the center sits, the university system agreed to pay $100,000 for some of the building's equipment and to forgive $1 million owed it by the center.

The deal calls for the city and state to forgive $4.8 million owed them for completing the $160 million facility, built with federal, state and city funds.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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