Legal snag stalls sale or lease of city site

Long delay faces firms interested in 51 acres on east side at county line

July 02, 2004|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

It should have been smooth sailing: The Baltimore Development Corp. wanted Hollander Ridge off its hands, and seven companies wanted to take it.

But the city's quasi-public economic development agency has scrapped applications for the 51-acre former public housing project and issued a new request for proposals this week, potentially delaying its sale or lease by eight months because of a legal snag.

The agency said it wasn't told by the city housing authority until recently that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires Baltimore to consider financial return above all else when selling or leasing the Pulaski Highway site.

The first request for proposals listed as equal all the development agency's criteria, including job creation and quality of the project.

"This was such an important element and could so change the way developers would respond that the only fair thing to do was to clear the decks and start over," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, the agency's president. "We regretted having to do that because it's taken lots of time and effort on people's part."

Brodie said he believes this is the first time a request for proposals has had to be reissued because the request was flawed.

The first call for Hollander Ridge went out in early November. Now people have until Aug. 30 to get their proposals in.

Brodie hopes the time hasn't been entirely lost because the second go-round could be quicker - a decision should be made by the end of the year, he said.

At least one of the interested companies that applied in November has bowed out, unable to wait.

"It's a great site, very convenient for us, but we don't have flexibility in our timetables," said Mitchell Goetze, vice president of administration for Goetze's Candy Co. in Baltimore, which needs to expand.

"You know, I don't want to say anything bad, but this has been going on long enough," he said. "We have to move on."

MIE Properties Inc. in Catonsville plans to try again. The developer of one-story "flex" buildings is eager to get a foothold in that area, which sits on the eastern edge of the city.

"Hollander Ridge represents an excellent location - the convergence of Interstate 95 and the Harbor Tunnel Thruway," said Jerry Wit, the company's vice president of marketing. "We'll be good soldiers and play along."

The others who applied in November were the Belt's Corp.; DS Pipe and Supply; Gould Property Co.; Wells Obrecht, Tom Brooks, LeRoy Hoffberger and Douglas Hoffberger, as Hollander Ridge LLC; and Mark Levy, Wayne Newsome, Dean Harrison, Ronald Lipscomb and Mark Shapiro, as Hollander Rock LLC.

"There's still plenty of interest," Brodie said. "We've lost some time, which is regrettable but not fatal."

Jim Caronna, a principal at NAI KLNB, a commercial real estate firm, said it's an exciting project because the city has so few new buildings. This is a chance to compete with the suburbs, he said.

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