From wheeling and dealing to Medicaid and medicine, the former Inner Harbor Ford dealership, once home to the $99-down man, will be transformed this summer into a medical clinic run by Harbor Hospital Center.
The $200,000 renovation, which should be completed by late November, should erase any trace of the south Hanover Street automobile dealership that was forced to close in 1989, said Jackie Breeden, Harbor Hospital spokeswoman.
The changes, which have been designed by LaPlata-based Design Alliance, will alter the building's facade and create eight examination rooms utilizing approximately 4,500 square feet of space. The building is much larger -- 36,000 square feet -- but hospital officials have not decided yet what to do with the remainder of the old dealership. The property sits on approximately four acres.
Time may be the only thing that will separate the building from its past. Even now, a sign that heralds the coming of the new medical clinic stands alongside an older sign that reads "Parts."
"There have been a lot of jokes," says Breeden. "We have to take them with a grain of salt."
Breeden said the dealership property, which the hospital purchased for $1.2 million at auction last year, was a good buy.
Because the hospital is bordered by the Patapsco River on one side and South Hanover Street on the other, the dealership's location -- directly across the street from the hospital center -- offered the best opportunity for expansion.
"We're pretty much landlocked here," said Breeden. "So to expand, we have to have adjacent property."
What was good for the hospital center, however, was not so good for John Minor, the former owner of Inner Harbor Ford. In the face of severe financial problems, Minor was forced by the Ford Motor Co. to shut the dealership two years ago.
Minor was the state's first black Ford dealer. He was also known for a commercial pitch that promised to sell a car to anyone who could pay $99 down and $99 a month. It proved a fatal assurance when the dealership fell victim to sluggish sales and a high number of repossessions.
When the dealership property was purchased last year, hospital officials had no specific plans for it, said Breeden.
Since then, however, the hospital faced a change in state law regarding Medicaid recipients. They no longer may be assigned to emergency rooms for their primary care. Instead, Medicaid recipients must choose between a clinic, physician or physician group for medical care.
Now that Harbor Hospital officials have plans for the new clinic, they are encouraging Medicaid recipients to sign up now by calling 347-3604. The state law requires that recipients choose a care provider before February of next year, or they will be assigned one by the state.
A contractor for the renovation is expected to be chosen in July.
The new design calls for the exterior of the facility to be extensively landscaped and a portico to be added to the entrance to the building. Most of the renovation involves the inside of the building, Breeden said.
The following are leasing transactions handled by the Baltimore-based firm of Hicks & Rotner Associates Inc.:
* Dr. Thomas Weiss, a local dentist, has leased 1,500 square feet of office space in Yorktowne Plaza at York and Cranbrook roads in Cockeysville.
* The Card Shop, a local Hallmark card store, has expanded into a 4,000-square-foot store in Yorktowne Plaza.
* Oriental Grocery, a local grocery store, has leased 1,000 square feet in Aquahart Plaza at Aquahart Road near Crain Highway.
* Taco Bell, a national fast food restaurant, has leased 1,500 square feet in Bel Air Town Center shopping center at Route 24 and Route 1.
* Encore Books, a division of Rite Aid Corp., has leased 3,600 square feet in 40 West Shopping Center at Rolling Road and Route 40 West in Catonsville.
The following are leasing transactions handled by the Baltimore-based firm of CB Commercial:
* Leslie's Swimming Pool Supply has leased 4,165 square feet in Patriots Plaza Shopping Center in Pasadena.
* The Maryland Infants and Toddlers Program, a state agency, has leased 5,028 square feet at One Market Center in Baltimore.