LCOR Inc., the development company that has missed four deadlines to begin building a heralded $220 million town center at the Owings Mills Metro station, has had long delays or deal-breaking impasses at similar projects in Rockville, Charlotte and Durham, N.C., and Oakland, Calif.
A $300 million convention center renovation fell though last year in Charlotte because LCOR and the city couldn't agree on financing.
There were disputes over financing in Oakland, Calif., which planned a $200 million retail and hotel expansion at its port.
In Durham, LCOR reached a tentative deal in a 1999 plan to rebuild a veterans hospital. None of that work has started.
In Baltimore County, LCOR is expected to develop a 100-room hotel, stores, restaurants and 450 apartments and townhouses and a public library on 47 acres of state-owned land next to the Metro station.
But more than a year after LCOR was selected to be the developer, the company has yet to sign an agreement with Maryland and the county - which have put up $28 million for the project - that would allow it to begin construction.
While state and county officials are optimistic the LCOR project will be completed as planned, others aren't so sure.
"I don't think LCOR is going to be involved at all," said Del. Robert A. Zirkin. "Despite what the state and county is saying, this is going to be starting fresh."
LCOR was selected as the Owings Mills project's master developer in August 2000 and has missed agreement deadlines with the county in April, July and December of 2001 and in April of this year. Its next deadline is June 30.
Baltimore County officials said they did their homework on LCOR and found it has completed many more projects than those that didn't work out.
"As you get to these projects, they are always complex," said Robert L. Hannon, executive director of the county Department of Economic Development. "We respect LCOR for what they bring to the table."
State officials agreed.
"The business terms and complexities of the town center project are difficult in the best of times," said Adele Stephens, director for transit-oriented development for the Maryland Transit Administration.
"We believe very much in this project, and we will continue our discussions [with LCOR]."
LCOR also believes it can make the Owings Mills project work.
The Rockville project, which is similar to the one proposed in Owings Mills, is just getting started after a three-year wait.
White Flint project
LCOR was selected in 1998 to develop a $450 million project of high-rise office buildings, shops and 1,338 residential units on 32 acres of Washington Metro property at White Flint.
LCOR didn't sign its development contract until January last year and is now seeking zoning changes so it can begin construction.
"The Metro [in White Flint] took 3 1/2 years," said R. William Hard, LCOR's executive vice president.
"Multiphased developments are very complicated projects and they take a long time."
Elisa Hill, senior development specialist for the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, said: "It's a very complicated deal. It just takes a long time to negotiate."
Hill acknowledges frustrating delays over how much money the authority would receive in the lease agreement with the company.
"There were some concerns that the progress was moving slowly," Hill said. "We brought in outside counsel and went toe to toe."
LCOR officials said delays and negotiations are part of every project. LCOR is considered one of the top 20 development companies in the nation.
Depending on whom you talk to, it is credited with building anywhere from $4.2 billion to $7 billion in major projects.
Its signature development was the construction of a $1.4 billion John F. Kennedy International Airport terminal in New York that opened last year.
Recently, it broke ground on the $800 million U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.
Two years ago, Charlotte officials selected LCOR to renovate its convention center in a $311 million redevelopment plan that included a 30-story skyscraper and a luxury hotel.
But the project never got started because LCOR kept asking the city for more financial help. Eventually, the council voted to sever ties.
Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte City Council member, has a message for Baltimore County officials handling the Owings Mills project: Proceed with caution.
"They weren't able to do what they said they were going to do," Graham said. "There were a lot of nice pictures and they wowed the City Council, and they were never able to pull it off."
Mike Castano, another member of Charlotte City Council, said, "They're a legitimate organization, and they have successful projects. But every place is different."
In Charlotte's case, the company said it simply couldn't make the economic objectives of the city and the company jibe.
"There are deals that work and deals that don't," Hard said.