New life possible for community for the deaf

Wyndholme Village property for sale again

October 03, 2001|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Wyndholme Village, Baltimore's proposed community for deaf seniors that appeared to go bust this year, may resurface now that a court decree has put the property back on the market.

Original owner and Wyndholme visionary James M. Lancelotta lost the property in May through bank foreclosure, and his former partner -- Florida-based developer Stuart C. "Neil" Fisher -- bought it for $4.6 million at auction.

Lancelotta then returned dozens of $10,000 deposits to people across the country who had wanted to live in the community on 24 acres in Southwest Baltimore.

Fisher, who was not clear on his vision for Wyndholme during an interview after the auction in May, soon defaulted on his purchase contract. Fisher bought the property as principal of the company Nadif of Wyndholme LLC.

Lancelotta said he has a financial backer who wants to buy the property and continue with his original plan. Fisher could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Fisher will lose his $125,000 deposit and must pay for any resale costs, according to the order issued Monday by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Carol E. Smith.

Fisher had until mid-September to tell the court why his company had not made good on the contract, and if it had plans to do so, said Robert J. Brannan, trustee of the property. "I received no reply," Brannan said.

The property in the 5200 block of Frederick Ave. could be up for auction as early as next month.

Brannan said he would consider reselling to Fisher if the developer approaches him well before the auction. But he said he does not know if that will happen.

"In the limited dealings we've had with him, you always walk away with a feeling of you don't know where you stand," Brannan said. "After you get finished talking, you don't know what you heard. You don't know if you get a yes or a no or a maybe."

Fisher is best known in Baltimore for his involvement in the proposed Ritz-Carlton waterfront hotel on Key Highway, though it is not clear whether he is still involved in that project other than holding a multimillion-dollar option on the land.

Lancelotta said he and his group will continue with his plans for Wyndholme, which include 550 condominiums, bicycle paths, dining rooms, a bank and a grocery store. The $75 million community would cater to seniors with hearing problems and other disabilities, he said.

Arbutus-based Leeds Federal Savings Bank now holds a mortgage on the property.

"I'm not pushed out of this," said Lancelotta, whose maternal grandparents were deaf and who grew up on the Wyndholme property bought by his family in 1943 for $20,000.

The project was announced in 1996. Some of the condo units were to have been ready in 1998, with completion of the project in 2003. But it has not gone beyond the drawing board.

Lancelotta's group is backed by James Macfadden, who owns a computer company in Silver Spring and lives in Howard County. He said he is not discouraged at having been outbid by Fisher in May.

"The market we're after is people who can use technology to help with quality of life," said Macfadden, who is deaf. "I understand that world. I understand it because I live it every day of my life."

Lancelotta ran into money troubles in 1998 when he lost $7.1 million in funding after a Denver-based company went through an embezzlement scandal and withdrew its loan. To forestall creditors who wanted to liquidate, Lancelotta accepted $2 million from Fisher to keep the project afloat.

Fisher then offered a $7 million construction loan as a partner, but didn't come through with it, Lancelotta said, and construction never began.

Still, many would-be Wyndholme residents have not let go of their reservations, said Barbara A. Willigan, executive vice president of Wyndholme. "People still want Wyndholme Village as their future home."

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