Police precinct sold at auction

With a $335,000 bid, developer buys Towson landmark

April 15, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A Greektown developer outbid eight others at an auction yesterday morning for one of Towson's most recognizable landmarks: a two-story Spanish colonial brick building with baroque spiraled columns that has served as a police precinct for 73 years.

The historic building was sold for $335,000 to Towson Station LLC, which is owned and managed by developer Thomas Rafailides and his son, Hermes. Rafailides said he plans to use Towson Station as a second location for his development companies in Highlandtown. Some space also might be leased to law offices.

The sale will allow the Baltimore County Police Department to retire the old and dainty Washington Avenue building from police work by December, when construction on a $5.1 million precinct is expected to be completed at Bosley and Susquehanna avenues.

"We're very happy with this acquisition," said Rafailides, owner of Raf Realty and Bay View Management. "It's a great location. We know this will take a lot of work, but we've done a lot of rehabbing so we'll be able to get it into real good shape. I think it's an excellent investment, and it will be worth it in the end."

The settlement date for the contract will be on or before Dec. 1. The county has the right to extend the date in case construction on the new precinct is not completed on time, said county spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

"We're very pleased with the bid," Armacost said. "We were looking for a bid around $300,000, so we felt like we got a good deal, and so did he."

County officials had decided that the building -- designated as a historic landmark in 1978 -- was too small and too poorly maintained to use as county offices.

It outlived its usefulness as a station house decades ago.

The ceiling leaks, the heating is sauna-like and the building is not handicapped accessible. Cells at the old precinct have not been used for about seven years because of lead paint, and prisoners awaiting transfers have been temporarily handcuffed to pipes.

Though many bidders agreed that the building maintained much of its external beauty, they also said it needed a lot of renovation and estimated the costs at $400,000.

Because of Towson Station's historic status, the new owners cannot demolish the building. They also cannot excavate, alter or change outside features of the building without prior approval from the county Landmarks Preservation Commission.

"I was hoping people didn't know what they were getting here," said Pete Clark of Anne Arundel County-based Williamsburg Contractors, who was willing to bid as high as $150,000. "Also, the windows are old, the roof is leaking and there's asbestos in the building. I thought maybe it would be too much of a liability for people to be interested in.

"But I'm not surprised at the final bid because it's an up economy, and an auction owner always benefits," Clark said.

Clark's highest bid was $50,000 short of where the bidding started yesterday. Then the price shot up to $275,000 and intensified for about 10 minutes as development companies tried to outspend each other.

Rafailides' first and final bid of $335,000 won with a simple thumbs-up gesture.

Yesterday, he made a $31,000 deposit and planned to send an architect back soon to begin drawing up plans.

Mike Applefeld of Catherine Realty walked away "a little disappointed." He put up a valiant fight but shook his head when the auctioneer, Paul T. Sobwick of Atlantic Auctions Inc., asked for $5,000 more than Rafailides' winning bid.

"It's got a lot of character, and you're right in the center of Towson," Applefeld said. "It would have taken a lot of work, but it would have been worth it.

"It's a shame," Applefeld said as he took one last glance at the building. "I should have bid more."

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