Board of Estimates adds $200,000 to demolition contract

Cost of clearing site in Little Italy twice what contractor bid

November 25, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved nearly $200,000 in additional work orders yesterday for the demolition of a 70-year-old building in Little Italy, bringing the total for the contract to almost $1 million, or more than twice the original bid.

George G. Balog, city public works director, said the additional work orders were the result of unforeseen problems in the project, including contaminated soil on the site and concrete buried on the property.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke defended the deal, saying that the extra work orders were needed to prepare the site on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Bank Street for a parking garage.

"Nobody knew what was under there, and we had asked for a clear site," Schmoke said.

Phipps Construction Contractors performed the demolition, which began in January and ended in April. Phipps received $934,959 for the project, for which the company originally had bid $427,025.

Roberto Marsili, a Little Italy community activist, criticized the Schmoke administration for giving Phipps what he called a sweetheart deal. He said he wanted to comment on the deal at the board meeting, but city officials refused to let him do so. Members of the public are often allowed to speak during the meetings.

The site now has a parking garage that is expected to open for full service by the end of the year. Part of the garage will open over the next few days to alleviate parking problems in the area, Balog said.

In addition to the Little Italy project, the board also approved the sale of properties owned by the city to developers, including a site for $800 in the Sandtown-Winchester Urban Renewal Area; two $100 properties, one in the Reservoir Hill Urban Renewal Area and one in the Druid Heights area; and a $1 property in the West Coldspring Urban Renewal Area.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently recognized the city's Department of Housing and Community Development for its $1 program, which offers dilapidated properties to developers for rehabilitation. HUD praised the city for implementing innovative solutions for the city's vacant housing stock.

Anthony J. Ambridge, the city's real estate officer, said he wants to ensure that these deals are made in the best interest of the city. Ambridge works for Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, reviewing deals proposed by the Schmoke administration.

Ambridge said many of the houses offered for a nominal fee often would cost the city far more to rehabilitate and sell. The city offers such deals as incentives to developers and as a way to revitalize neighborhoods.

In the case of the $1 property, Pratt said the city accidentally demolished a house Solomon Akwara was restoring on his property at 3908 Dorchester Road and offered him a city property at 3705 Yosemite Ave. in a swap.

The city made a profit on the sale yesterday of 117 Water St., which it purchased in May for $2 million. The city bought the property for a garage but found it did not need it. The board approved its sale for $2.25 million to Non-Profits Exchange Inc.

Pub Date: 11/25/99

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