Village for deaf seniors is on again after auction

$4.67 million bidder buys site, will work with one-time owner

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

Wyndholme Village - a proposed community for deaf seniors that has been tainted by bankruptcy, foreclosure and bad business deals for the past five years - was bought at auction yesterday by a deaf businessman who says he will build the $75 million gated community.

With a backdrop of two dozen cheering, deaf seniors, James Macfadden outbid Leeds Federal Savings Bank and agreed to pay $4.67 million for the 24-acre property in the 5400 block of Frederick Ave. in Southwest Baltimore.

In April, he was outbid on the property by Florida-based developer Stuart C. "Neil" Fisher, a former partner in the Wyndholme project, who then defaulted on his purchase contract.

"I'm relieved there wasn't another bidder," said Macfadden, who made a $125,000 deposit after the auction, which was conducted by Towson-based Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. and took place at the foot of the property.

Arbutus-based Leeds Federal holds a mortgage on the property, but will transfer the title to Macfadden after he pays the balance of the cost, which is supposed to happen within 30 days.

Macfadden, who owns a computer company in Silver Spring and lives in Howard County, is working closely with James M. Lancelotta, Wyndholme's original owner who lost the property through bank foreclosure.

Lancelotta and Macfadden say they will continue with the original plans for a deaf community on the site of Lancelotta's childhood home. That includes 550 condominiums, bicycle paths, dining rooms, a bank and a grocery store, all of which would cater to seniors with hearing problems and other disabilities.

Construction is scheduled to start in January, and residents would move in next fall.

"I'm thrilled," said Lancelotta, whose maternal grandmother is deaf. "This was meant to be. I have the perfect team in place to do it." Lancelotta said he's learning from his mistakes.

Fisher, the man who outbid Macfadden last time with a $4.6 million offer, is Lancelotta's former business partner, whom he once referred to as his "white knight." Fisher could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Fisher is best known in Baltimore for his early involvement in the proposed Ritz-Carlton waterfront hotel on Key Highway. It is not clear whether he is still involved in that project, although his wife holds an option on the land.

After Fisher turned over $125,000 to auctioneers in April, Lancelotta returned dozens of $10,000 deposits to people across the country who had wanted to live in the community.

This week, Lancelotta filed suit against Fisher in Baltimore Circuit Court, alleging fraud.

On Tuesday, Judge John Carroll Byrnes signed an order freezing the assets of Fisher and his company, Nadif of Wyndholme, that relate to Wyndholme Village. The assets were ordered frozen until the lawsuit is settled.

The project was first announced in 1996. It was supposed to welcome its first residents in 1998 and be completed in 2003.

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 offer.

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 alleges in his lawsuit. Construction never began.

Now that Macfadden has bought the property and Lancelotta is involved again, they plan to start accepting tenant deposits in 30 days.

Sarah Val, 75, who was at yesterday's auction, has had a reservation for a Wyndholme condominium unit for four years. She said through an interpreter that she plans to be first in line to pay a deposit.

She and her husband, Louis, 79, both of whom have been deaf most of their lives, said they are eager to move into a comfortable community that will cater to their needs with special lighting, television captioning and phones designed for the hard of hearing.

"I just felt like `wow'," signed Val, who lives in New Carrollton. "I've wanted to live here since the beginning."

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