Charles Village project faces new hurdle

Second property owner criticizes Struever tactics

August 20, 2004|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A second property owner is publicly criticizing the way developer C. William Struever has gone about buying up real estate for the $150 million College Town retail and residential project in North Baltimore's Charles Village area.

Ann Hurlock said yesterday that Struever and his staff have put undue pressure on her to sell a four-story apartment building near 33rd and St. Paul streets that is home to Johns Hopkins University fraternity members.

She said Struever and one of his employees warned her the city could force a sale if she dug in - a claim Struever dismissed. City officials will not rule out condemnation, but they call it unlikely.

Hurlock said she has refused to part with the building, which has been in her family since 1940, out of concern for her 24 tenants and because Struever has not offered enough money. She gave no figures.

"Where's Donald Trump when I need him?" she said by telephone from Key West, Fla. "Donald would sit down and say, `Struever, darling, give me money; we can talk.'"

Struever needs Hurlock's property at 3 E. 33rd St. for the $50 million portion of College Town planned for the west side of the 3200 block of St. Paul St. It would have condominiums geared toward empty-nesters, shops and a 575-space publicly owned parking garage tucked behind new buildings.

This week, an official at Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse said there was one holdout, Daniel F. Jackson Jr., who wants a reported $1.5 million for a rowhouse on the east side of St. Paul. Shops and condos are planned for that stretch as well.

Jackson told The Sun this week: "It's as simple as this: Like the movie Tom Cruise is in, `Show me the money.'"

The Struever official said the firm was close to acquiring two other properties on the west side, Hurlock's building and 5 E. 33rd St., which has a University Mini Mart in the ground floor and apartments rented by members of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity above. Struever has bought the remaining 24 rowhouses he needs along both sides of St. Paul for nearly $4 million.

But Hurlock, 55, called The Sun yesterday to say that she and Struever remain very much at odds. While they have agreed that he would swap a nearby property in exchange for her building, she is not happy with the financial terms.

Struever, on vacation in Maine, said her comments were a surprise. He said he is confident he can finalize deals with all three remaining owners and move ahead on a project to enliven the corridor east of Hopkins' Homewood campus.

"We think it's a good thing, and we're very hopeful we can make it a reality," he said. "We need to get site control, and we're in the very final stages of it."

He added: "Maybe we won't get the project. Life will go on."

In addition to work on the east and west sides of St. Paul below 33rd, he is developing with Hopkins a 618-bed dormitory and a Barnes and Noble bookstore above 33rd between Charles and St. Paul streets. Hopkins owns that land.

The city's Design Advisory Panel gave final approval yesterday to architectural plans for the east side of St. Paul, and demolition work could begin this fall - assuming Jackson sells.

Struever said the swaps to acquire Hurlock's property as well as 5 E. 33rd would resolve what he calls unauthorized frat houses at that corner. But he would not reveal the proposed new locations.

"It's not done yet," he said. "We have not sat down to meet with the community. We don't have it all worked out."

Scott Burns, a lawyer who represents the owner of 5 E. 33rd, said there is no firm deal with Struever; Struever insisted he has a written agreement with the property owner.

As for Hurlock, Struever said he thought they were close to a resolution. "The last conversation I had with her, there was very much a sense we're on the right path," he said.

However, Hurlock said: "If there is an adequate purchase price and alternate accommodations for my tenants, then there would be a deal, or the potential for a deal. So far he has not delivered on anything."

She said she wished Struever acted more "businesslike" with her. "But," she said, "he doesn't feel like he needs to do that because the threat of the city is always whispering in my ear."

That threat is condemnation. Since the garage will be publicly financed and owned, it could trigger the "public good" required in a condemnation, said city planning chief Otis Rolley III.

Under condemnation, Hurlock would be compelled to sell at fair market value. Struever said he never threatened that could happen, and Rolley said it's not likely.

But Hurlock, a Baltimore lawyer, said the rent she gets from the eight large units is key to her and her husband's "economic well-being," which is why she would rather not sell at all.

"I'm caught in the cross fire," she said.

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