By Natalie Sherman and Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun
8:46 PM EST, February 27, 2014
A development group backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank could breathe new life into a stalled plan to transform the landmark and long-vacant Recreation Pier in Fells Point into a luxury hotel.
A representative of Sagamore Development LLC presented plans for a 128-room hotel with a restaurant and a pool during Wednesday's annual meeting of the Fells Point Main Street organization, according to people who attended the meeting.
Built in 1914, the Recreation Pier originally stored port cargo. The building was used as a community center and television studio for "Homicide: Life on the Street," but closed after the show went off the air in 1999.
The developer told the Fells Point group it has the property under contract, said Mike Maraziti, president of Fells Point Main Street.
Steven Siegel, who presented the proposal to community members Wednesday on behalf of Sagamore, could not be reached for comment. The firm shares its name with Plank's thoroughbred horse training farm in Glyndon and was formed in October, state records show.
Sagamore hopes to win support for the project through meetings with neighborhood residents and business groups, said city Councilman James B. Kraft, whose district includes Fells Point.
But community members were told the developer's willingness to proceed hinges on whether the city would waive a requirement to extend the harbor front promenade around the building and pier. The developer said the promenade would be cost-prohibitive.
Kraft confirmed that the developer has indicated the project may not proceed if it is required to extend the promenade.
Residents and business owners who have seen the Sagamore plans said they favor the redevelopment of an iconic structure that has sat dormant for years as the pier deteriorated. Past proposals for the former city-owned site, including an Aloft hotel with a restaurant, never came to fruition.
"The difference this time is Kevin Plank has the wherewithal to get it done and get it funded," Maraziti said. "I don't care if the promenade goes around the building. If we have to give a little to get this building renovated and get this piece of Fells Point up and running again, I'm all for it."
The city, which asked for development proposals in 2002 and awarded the site in 2004 to city developer J. Joseph Clarke for a hotel, required a promenade around the pier as a condition of awarding the development rights. At the time, community groups insisted on the pathway as well, Kraft said.
The city sold the Thames Street property in 2010 to Clarke and H&S Properties Development for $2 million.
Cheron Porter, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Housing, the city agency that handled the offer of the Rec Pier for private development, said she was told that Plank was negotiating with the H&S group.
The Sagamore representative said during Wednesday's meeting that control of the property had been transferred from H&S to Baltimore developer Michael S. Beatty, Maraziti said.
Neither Beatty nor H&S officials could be reached for comment Thursday. Beatty founded H&S Properties in 1995 with H&S Bakery Inc. owner John Paterakis Sr. to develop Harbor East, but the two divided the development business last year. Beatty now heads his own development firm.
Ron Furman, owner of Max's Taphouse on Broadway in Fells Point, said he sees a boutique hotel as a plus for bringing in more tourists and customers and filling a need in an area where development has drawn new residents.
"It's been a long time coming, and I hope they can move forward as soon as possible," Furman said. "It's going to be an extremely costly project. We can either watch it crumble and fall into the harbor, or watch somebody build it into a beautiful structure that's useful and recycles an old building with historic significance."
The Main Street group was told no decision had been made regarding a hotel operator, Maraziti said.
Sagamore representatives have begun arranging meetings with the various community groups to get feedback, said Arthur Perschetz, a 13-year resident of Fells Point and the former president of the Fells Point Residents Association.
"The community can't wait to have this thing start fast enough," Perschetz said. "This 128-room luxury hotel is going to bring upscale tourists and benefit Fells Point" instead of "having an empty derelict building, which has historical meaning to Fells Point."
Plank "is willing to step up, and is in a financial position to do the deal," Perschetz said. "It's a spectacular thing. The building is simply going to fall into the water if someone doesn't fix it."
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