Old Town Mall auction fails to bring IRS' minimum bid

September 11, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Three people bid on a corner building at Old Town Mall yesterday, but when the 10-minute auction was over, the Internal Revenue Service still owned the property, which was seized last year from the estate of a slain suspected drug dealer.

The highest bid was $50,000 - $47,000 less than the minimum the IRS wanted for the East Baltimore property at 425-431 Old Town Mall (formerly North Gay Street).

The IRS has 72 hours to decide whether to accept the bid of Wilbert Andrews, said Britney Bartlett, public relations coordinator with EG&G Technical Services in Manassas, Va., which handles seized property auctions for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

IRS officials plan to check Andrews' background to ensure he is not affiliated with Rodney Bryan, who authorities said bought the property with drug money. If the government rejects Andrews' bid, the property will be re-auctioned or sold to a broker, Bartlett said.

The property was seized in April last year from Bryan's estate. Bryan, 35, had been indicted on federal charges of drug dealing six months before he was found fatally shot in a Cockeysville apartment.

Bryan's mother, who asked not to be named, has said she does not plan to challenge the seizure and auction.

The auction generated little interest; only four people registered to bid, each submitting a $5,000 certified cashier's check, and there were no write-in offers. Andrews, 57, owner of a Guilford Avenue printing company, placed the highest bid. He said he wants to relocate his business to the mall.

Stephen Pinnick, 57, who owns five buildings in Old Town Mall, stopped bidding at $48,000. "Nah, I'm OK. Let it go," Pinnick told auctioneer Steve Dance, who urged Pinnick to bid higher.

Another bidder, Nic Fontaine, 35, a librarian from Bowie, said he was interested in opening some sort of business in the mall. He dropped out of the bidding early, leaving Andrews and Pinnick. A fourth registrant didn't actively participate in the bidding.

The three active bidders were surprised by the IRS' asking price.

Andrews, who inspected the three-story, 6,174-square-foot brick building last week, said he hopes the IRS accepts his bid.

"It looked like it would be a good investment because it's an Enterprise Zone and close to downtown," Andrews said after bids were closed. "As you can see, most of the property here needs a lot of improvement."

Andrews said it's imperative that city officials help renovate the struggling mall. After the auction, he talked at length to Pinnick, who has operated his clothing store there since 1963. The men said the mall can be revived; the question is whether it will.

Kevin J. Malachi, director of commercial revitalization in the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, said yesterday city officials are committed to helping the struggling mall.

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