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GSA starts public sales process for Metro West

GSA moves to public sale of Metro West facility

The General Services Administration said Wednesday it plans to try to sell the massive Metro West complex to a private buyer, starting in June, with the hope of accepting bids by the end of the summer.

The 300 N. Greene Street facility, a 1.1 million-square-foot structure that spans roughly two city blocks near Lexington Market, has been empty since the Social Security Administration relocated last year. The GSA also is trying to sell the Appraisers Stores building on Gay Street in the Inner Harbor, launching an online auction in March with a starting bid of $1 million.

The Metro West property covers about 11 acres, with a 15-story tower, more than 500 parking spots and two wings connected by a skybridge over West Mulberry Street.

When it opened in 1980 at a cost of about $92 million, many hoped it would help revitalize the area. That same hope exists for its redevelopment, officials said.

The site, valued at around $138 million for tax purposes with annual operating costs of nearly $1.8 million a year, is zoned for commercial use. The structure also could be demolished, GSA officials said.

Baltimore Development Corp. President William H. Cole IV said it is critical that the parcel be redeveloped, given its size and location at the juncture of west Baltimore and downtown.

"We absolutely positively have to find a way to get that property in the hands of somebody who can do something with it," he said.

It won't be easy, he added. "It is a very challenging building given the way it's constructed."

By law, GSA offers federal properties to other government agencies and nonprofit groups before going to the public. It began that process for Metro West in 2013, after plans were announced in 2009 to move the Social Security Administration to a site near the Reisterstown Road Plaza Metro Station.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is located nearby, expressed interest but ultimately withdrew because of the size of the complex, said Kris Carson, mid-Atlantic branch chief for the GSA's office of real property utilization and disposal division. Two state agencies, including the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, also withdrew bids.

The Department of Health and Human Services rejected an application from an organization focused on the homeless, Carson said, declining to immediately identify the group or reasons for the rejection. Last year, a proposal to use the site as a shelter for immigrant children was scrapped after opposition.

Carson said the GSA is still deciding whether the sale will be conducted by online auction, on site auction or through mailed proposals. The agency accepts the highest bid and hopes to close the process by early September, Carson said.

The auction for the Appraisers Stores is scheduled to end in June. No bids have been submitted but officials said they typically see offers closer to the closing date.

nsherman@baltsun.com

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