Plan to turn Fells Point pier into hotel moves ahead

A long-stalled plan to transform the landmark Recreation Pier in Fells Point into a hotel is moving ahead, say Baltimore officials who announced they closed on the $2 million sale of the dilapidated property to developers.

The sale to Recreation Pier Developers LLC paves the way for a $35 million, 132-room Aloft hotel with a restaurant, said officials with the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

The new owners include city developer J. Joseph Clarke and H&S; Properties Development, which built Harbor East. Under an agreement approved in January 2008 by the city's Board of Estimates, the developers agreed to pay the city a $350,000 deposit and up to $1.65 million after the project is complete. The final amount will hinge on the cost of pier restoration, estimated at $8.8 million and including replacing sinking piles.

Restoration will start after Moran Towing Corp., the sole remaining pier tenant, moves to a new facility on S. Clinton Street in Canton by May, city officials said.

The city had selected J.J. Clarke Enterprises Inc. and a New Orleans partner, HRI Properties, in December 2004, but the project faced delays after HRI dropped out and Clarke discovered worse-than-expected deterioration of the pier, which stood in as a police station on the NBC drama "Homicide: Life on the Street." Clarke announced in 2006 that he had joined with H&S; Properties to form a new team.

Originally built in 1914 to store cargo, the pier was later used as a community center, with a second floor ballroom the site of weddings, dances and basketball games.