After years of legal wrangling, Baltimore developer Patrick Turner lost his Westport dream and land in a moment.
More than 40 acres of waterfront sold Wednesday for $6 million after a sole bid from the group that filed for foreclosure against Turner in December. Turner owed on a $30 million loan made in 2007 by Citigroup Global Markets Realty Corp. Citigroup sold the debt to Westport Property Investments LLC last summer.
Ballard Spahr attorney Timothy F. McCormack, who represented Westport Property Investments, declined to comment after the auction, which drew a crowd of roughly 30 onlookers and members of the press to the steps of Baltimore's Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, despite the morning cold.
"It was an interesting day in real estate," said Vincent DeLorenzo, a Baltimore real estate agent with property in Westport. "That land just went for cheap."
Turner could not be reached for comment. He started assembling parcels in 2004, eventually paying more than $10 million for land on which he hoped to build 2,000 residences, a 65-story skyscraper, offices, a stadium, a beach, a kayak launch area and running paths connecting to nearby Middle Branch Park. The city agreed in 2008 to borrow $160 million in bonds to help finance the development.
The real estate crash brought those plans to a standstill and the loan came due in 2010. Citigroup agreed to sell Turner the note for $8.5 million, then $7.1 million, but he never found sufficient financing.
Bankruptcy filings staved off two previous auctions, scheduled after Citigroup filed for foreclosure in 2013 and 2014. The company washed its hands of the deal last summer after it transferred the note to Westport Property Investments for an undisclosed sum.
Early talks between Turner's team and Westport Property Investments turned acrimonious, as Turner's team pressed without success for disclosure of the people behind the limited liability company. In November, Judge Robert A. Gordon ruled that Turner had run out of time and dismissed the bankruptcy.
Westport Property Investments filed for foreclosure in December, prompting Wednesday's auction. No other buyer appeared to challenge the group's bid for the land, located along Kloman Street and Waterview Avenue between the light rail line and the Patapsco River's Middle Branch.
Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, said the new owners have not reached out to her group. She said residents hope it will bring jobs to the area.
"We're looking forward to finding out who it is ... what is their vision and how does it work well with us, since we're here," she said. "We just want to know what their intentions are."
Allen said she does not expect any major redevelopment in the near future.
"All this tells us is there's a new owner. There still has to be the market for it," she said.
Loren Duffey, a real estate agent who bought his first investment properties in the area around 2005, said he hopes the new owner will be able to spur broader improvements in the community.
"The neighborhood has definitely seen its ups and downs," he said. "It'd sure be nice if it started going up again."