Sale of land for Ritz delayed

Developer is given until end of month

financing is `in place'

November 16, 2001|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The developer of the proposed $165 million Ritz-Carlton has been given more time to bring the luxury hotel project to Baltimore's harbor front.

The deal to buy land for the hotel and condominiums was scheduled to be completed yesterday. But an extension until the end of the month - one of several delays on the project - was granted by property owners, said Edward V. Giannasca II, president and chief executive officer of the developer, L.I. Square Corp. of New York.

Giannasca also said lenders have agreed to pay for the project, although he did not identify them.

"Final financing is in place and an announcement should be made at the beginning of next week," he said in a statement. "Everything should be in place by the end of the month."

Giannasca has said in the past that financing was lined up for the project - 225 guest rooms, 97 condos and 500 parking spaces. But yesterday, he said it would be financed with one big loan, rather than a traditional set of loans for the construction and the mortgage.

Real estate experts have said that the dismal lending climate has only gotten worse since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and that expensive luxury hotels are especially difficult to finance.

Giannasca has said the Ritz would be able to lure lenders because the condo sales would provide cash to offset construction costs.

But before the condos can be built and sold, developers must buy the land from a group including Richard Swirnow, who is developing the neighboring HarborView housing complex. Swirnow did not return phone calls.

The original developer on the project, Stuart C. "Neil" Fisher, had negotiated an option to buy the Key Highway property for an undisclosed price about two years ago. The option, held in his wife's name, was turned over to L.I. Square.

The Fishers will give up their rights to the land for a fee from L.I. Square upon the closing for the land.

Stuart Fisher once said the fee was at least $3.35 million - the same as the assessed value of the land - but has since said it will be less.The Fisher option expired at the end of October, after a one-month extension. The land deal was supposed to close by yesterday.

Giannasca said renegotiating the terms for much longer would be too expensive and unfavorable for the Ritz project.

Fisher said he's seen the land and financing documents and believes the project will move forward by the end of November.

"I think it's a very tremendous day for Baltimore when they get a commitment for $170 million. It's spectacular. Everybody should be happy."

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