Superblock developers might get extension

December 20, 2010|By Edward Gunts, The Baltimore Sun

Developers of the long-stalled Superblock project on downtown Baltimore's west side will get more time to work on their plans if city officials extend a 2005 land sale agreement that is to expire Dec. 31.

A second group, headed by the Cordish Cos., also will get additional time to solidify its plans to redevelop land just north of the Superblock, if city officials agree.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates is scheduled Wednesday to consider requests from Baltimore Development Corp. to give the developers more time to move ahead with projects on the west side, where development has been delayed for years by lawsuits and disputes over historic preservation.

The first extension would give Lexington Square Partners six more months — until June 30 — of exclusive negotiating rights to acquire city-owned property bounded roughly by Lexington, Howard and Fayette streets and Park Avenue for a mixed-use project containing apartments, stores, offices, a hotel and parking.

The property is filled with 19th-century and early 20th-century structures that are supposed to be retained under a preservation agreement signed by city and state officials. However, Lexington Square Partners has never presented a design that complies with a 2001 "memorandum of agreement" that gives a state agency, the Maryland Historical Trust, legal authority to block any project that doesn't adhere to the preservation plan. The developers' failure to comply with the memorandum has kept the project from moving forward.

Despite the delays, the mayor's office is willing to give the developers six more months to see if they can come up with a plan that complies with the state's requirements, according to Kaliope Parthemos, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development. Parthemos said that the developers have made progress in recent months in revising their plans, and that progress encouraged the mayor to support an extension.

In addition, the board will be asked to give a group affiliated with the Cordish Cos. an additional six to 12 months to move ahead with plans to redevelop a vacant parcel on the north side of Lexington Street.

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