www.baltimoresun.com/business/real-estate/bs-bz-port-covington-auction-20120508,0,3778150.story

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Large Port Covington parcel going to auction block

Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse property went into foreclosure

By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun

8:44 PM EDT, May 8, 2012

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A large chunk of waterfront property in Port Covington is set to go on the auction block in June after its previous owner, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, defaulted on a multimillion-dollar mortgage.

The now-defunct developer owed BB&T Bank more than $10.7 million for the roughly 10-acre parcel in South Baltimore off East Cromwell Street. A trustee-ordered sale is scheduled June 14.

The foreclosure sale brings new hope to an area filled with weedy lots — an area where developers have struggled for decades to get a foothold. But even if the sale is successful, it may be years before construction begins, developers say.

Four years ago, Struever Bros. presented a proposal for a 2 million-square-foot complex on the site. More than 2,000 residential units were planned in three towers — one 38 stories tall — as well as a 400-slip marina built on reconstructed piers.

"We developed a very early master plan and then the world started falling apart," said Tim Pula, the senior development director for Struever Bros. when the design was proposed.

Pula said the site still has great potential but vacancy levels in residential and office units in Baltimore mean development at Port Covington is still a few years away.

"I don't think anyone can tell you how long that is," he said.

The Port Covington site contains 5.2 acres of land and about five additional acres on two piers that jut into Winan's Cove, said Glen McDonald, managing director of business development at Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co., the New Jersey-based firm handling the sale.

"We've already received a number of calls and inquiries," McDonald said.

Although zoned for industrial use, the site also could be used for a mix of residential and commercial uses, according to the auctioneers. The property is within the city's new Enterprise Zone, qualifying it for property and employment tax credits.

Developer Patrick Turner, whose Turner Development Group is developing the Westport waterfront across the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, said the sale price of the Port Covington site is difficult to predict.

"It's a tough piece of property," he said of the land, which is sandwiched between Port Covington Shopping Center and the Tidewater Yacht Service Center and also presents a challenge because environmental concerns must be reviewed by regulators. "It's a head scratcher."

Bob Brandon, owner of the yacht center, is not planning to make an offer even though he bought part of the tract from Struever Bros. in 2006.

"Maybe we'd be interested in a different economy, but right now we're not," Brandon said.

The auctioneer plans to hold property previews on the last two Thursdays in May. All bidders must pre-register and be prepared to make a deposit of 10 percent of the contract price on auction day.

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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