The board of the Baltimore Development Corp. voted Thursday to start exclusive negotiations to sell a set of city-owned properties in the 400 block of N. Howard Street to a group proposing to create a hub for small theater companies.

The project, estimated at more than $7 million, was the lone response to a call earlier this year for development ideas for the west side parcels, where the city is trying to spur revitalization.


The buildings would be turned into a set of three new theaters, with a café, and co-working office space. The developer, Howard Street Incubator LLC, includes developer Winstead "Ted" Rouse, as well as six smaller theater troops.

"This is a nice project in that it's effectively pre-leased," said Dan Taylor, director of the BDC's central team.

The BDC board backed a $300,000 sales price proposed by the developer for the properties, with $50,000 due at settlement. The city would pay for up to $50,000 for costs of bringing the building into shape from an environmental standpoint under the agreement  and also act as the lender for the mortgage for the property. The terms of that agreement, which is to be repaid once the buildings are licensed for occupancy, have not been finalized.

A 2009 appraisal valued the 408-414 N. Howard St. buildings at $830,000 together. The state assessed the properties between at $580,100 for tax purposes, according to land records.

Board member Deborah Devan said the BDC had not conducted a new assessment.

"We're certainly aware of the fact that there's been no other bids that were submitted," she said. "Some would say that's the best indication of value."

The development is expected to yield about $2.8 million in new tax revenue, as well as help revive a long-vacant block. Construction would generate about 65 full-time jobs and result in 87 permanent positions, Taylor said.

Federal and state tax credits could finance up to 60 percent of the project, Rouse told the Baltimore Sun earlier this month. The project is eligible for Enterprise Zone tax credits, as well as property tax rebates offered through the Arts & Entertainment District tax credit.