Caterer may buy Belvedere ballrooms Martin's reaches informal agreement


Caterer Martin Resnick is negotiating with the new owners of the former Belvedere Hotel to buy most of its ballrooms and banquet halls -- including the John Eager Howard Room, the Charles Room and the 12th-floor grand ballrooms -- and restore them to their past glory as the newest operation of Martin's Caterers Inc.

Mr. Resnick, president of Martin's Caterers, said this week that he has an informal agreement to buy most of the public spaces in the 88-year-old building, where several generations of Baltimoreans held their proms, weddings and other events.

"We have an agreement in principle," he said. But "there are a lot of contingencies. Although we are greatly interested and would like it to come about, until those are worked out I can't say we have a deal."

The deal would mark the largest single portion of the Mount Vernon landmark to be sold since a New York group headed by real estate developer Elliott Sharaby acquired the building in March and said it would resell individual spaces as condominiums.

The new owners, acting as Belvedere Realty Corp., are marketing the former hotel rooms as 112 condominiums, with prices starting at less than $40,000. They also are selling the retail spaces in the lower-level mall, offices on the 11th floor and the 13th Floor Lounge.

Founded 27 years ago, Martin's has nine catering facilities in the Baltimore area but only one near downtown, the Preston Room on Preston Street, a small facility leased by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Mr. Resnick said he has been considering for some time opening a larger facility near downtown and that he thinks the Belvedere would be an ideal location because it is so well-known and so opulent.

"It is a very valuable facility," he said. "I have my doubts whether there is really a need for another new caterer in town. But we have a lot of overflow business that we could shift to that facility. We have a need for it, and we think it would be successful. There isn't another ballroom in the state that's as pretty as the Belvedere ballrooms."

Mr. Resnick said he essentially has reached agreement with Belvedere Realty on a price for the John Eager Howard Room, the Charles Room and the Terrace Room on the building's lobby level and for the 12th-floor ballrooms, but that he still has other details to resolve before the sale can be concluded.

In all, he would buy about 20,000 feet of space, one-fourth the size at Martin's flagship facility, Martin's West. He said he is not planning to buy the Owl Bar restaurant or the 13th Floor Lounge, although he has an option to buy the Owl Bar. He said he would use all of the rooms as banquet and meeting facilities -- even the John Eager Howard Room, which was a restaurant.

Before reopening the rooms, Mr. Resnick said, Martin's would spend $700,000 to $1 million on renovations, including new kitchens and acoustical controls for the ballrooms.

He said he has no firm date for concluding the sale but thinks the rooms could be renovated and reopened in time for the holiday season.

Joel Michael, project director for Belvedere Realty, said he also has a buyer for the 13th Floor Lounge, which would remain a rooftop lounge, and buyers for about 20 percent of the 10,000 square feet of lower-level retail space.

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