Anderson to sell dealership site to developer

Housing, shops would replace operation closed by GM

  • A developer who has not been named yet plans a mixed-use project on eight acres in Charles Village, the site of Anderson Automotive Group for 50 years. The dealership is one of the 1,100 that General Motors does not plan to renew.
A developer who has not been named yet plans a mixed-use project… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
November 18, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

An eight-acre swath of Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood would be transformed from a longtime auto dealership into a mix of housing and shops under preliminary plans from a developer buying the site.

The owner of Anderson Automotive, one of the 1,100 dealerships whose franchises won't be renewed next year by General Motors Corp., plans to sell a portion of his property to a developer planning to invest tens of millions of dollars and bring in hundreds of jobs, said an attorney for the developer.

Jon M. Laria, a partner with Ballard Spahr LLP in Baltimore, said he could not disclose the name of the developer, who is expected to unveil a redevelopment proposal tonight to Charles Village community leaders.

"We want to replace a viable business with another set of viable businesses," Laria said. "We're happy we can do a project that replaces or exceeds the substantial impact of Anderson."

Laria said the redevelopment would include both housing and retail, but that the plans had not yet been formally submitted to city officials.

Anderson Automotive's owner, Bruce Mortimer, who also runs a dealership in Hunt Valley, said he received two letters in May from GM, which had filed for bankruptcy-law protection earlier this year.

"GM is closing my business," he said. "They're not going to sell GM cars in my business downtown anymore." The second letter said the Hunt Valley franchise would be renewed.

Anderson was among the 1,100 dealers that received letters in May from GM saying the troubled automaker wouldn't extend their contracts when they ended in October 2010.

The city's oldest dealership, at Howard and 25th streets since 1955, was once known as Bill Mortimer's Anderson Olds and over the years added Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, GMC Truck, Hummer, Saab and Honda to its offerings.

Mortimer said he would move his Honda business to Hunt Valley and that he expects to keep the city dealership open as close as possible to October, when he expects to relocate his workers. He said the Anderson Body Shop will not close.

Laria said his client plans a complete redevelopment of the Anderson site south of 25th Street. When asked about the timing, Laria said the developer would hope to "minimize any downtime. The great thing about having a redevelopment proposal ready to go is you will minimize the time the land is vacant."

Anderson's plan to sell the land to a developer is a different tack than most of the dealers are taking, said Peter Kitzmiller, president of the dealers association. Many are opening used-car dealerships, expanding their repair shops or selling other brands, such as Suzuki.

"I don't think this is a trend," he said of Anderson's plans. "Most dealers are moving into other auto-related businesses."

GM has not identified which dealerships received letters or how many were targeted in each state.

Two of the 95 GM dealers in Maryland have closed since the automaker's letters went out, according to the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. Anderson's closure would make a third.

GM's announcement came a day after Chrysler LLC notified 789 dealers, or 25 percent of all its dealers, that it was shutting them down.

Charles Village community representatives said they were expecting details of the redevelopment plans to be unveiled at a meeting with the developer tonight and that they were hopeful the neighborhood wouldn't be left with blocks of vacant buildings.

"We're hoping it will be redeveloped as viable business and bring people to the community, and bring some money back into Baltimore City," said Bowen Nelson, secretary of the Old Goucher Business Alliance and president of the Old Goucher Community Association, both of which are groups within Charles Village.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea Walker contributed to this article.

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