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Upset Mercantile may cancel building

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. may cancel its plans to construct a new bank branch in Mount Vernon if the city of Baltimore gives it a hard time over a temporary automated teller machine it has erected at the construction site, according to an executive in charge of the proposed expansion.

Thomas A. Mariani, senior vice president for retail banking, said Mercantile officials are concerned about a meeting Friday that Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) scheduled for discussion of the teller machine.

"We're pretty hot about this," he said. "If the sentiment is to be tough with us, we may just fold our tents. There's a lot of [vacant] space in that area. We could find the space we need with a lot less money" than constructing a new building.

CHAP scheduled the meeting after its chairman received complaints about the temporary teller machine, which was installed last month near the northwest corner of Charles and Chase streets. It replaced a larger one slated for removal to make way for the new bank branch.

Representatives of neighboring businesses in the 1100 block of North Charles Street have said the one-story building is unattractive and is a safety hazard to pedestrians.

According to CHAP officials, the city's Department of Transportation issued a building permit for the temporary structure without forwarding plans to CHAP for its review, which is required by city law.

If the commissioners determine that the building is inappropriate for the historic district, they have the authority to order the bank to take it down.

Mr. Mariani said he is angry because the bank has "hardly avoided CHAP or DAP" -- the housing department's Design Advisory Panel -- in seeking approval for its new building, which is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million. He said the bank applied for and received permission from the city to install PTC the temporary teller machine and a construction fence, which has been put up, and that it can't afford to wait much longer before starting construction.

"It's beginning to wear thin around here," he said of the review process. "It's up to the city to move that permit around" to the appropriate agencies.

Mr. Mariani said the teller machine -- used by 12,000 people a month -- is the most active of the 72 that Mercantile has in Maryland. He said bank officials decided to put the replacement on the Charles Street side of the property rather than the Chase Street side largely for security reasons.

He added that the teller machine will be up only until the new building is complete in August, since it will have its own teller machine.

Mercantile currently leases space for a Mount Vernon branch inside the building at the northeast corner of Charles and Chase streets. It began making plans to build a replacement across the street because its landlord, Aegon Inc., wants the space for its own use.

CHAP's meeting is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m. Friday in the third-floor conference room at 417 E. Fayette St.

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Around the region:

* The Maran Building at 320 N. Eutaw St., a six-story office building with 76,662 square feet of space and 25 on-site parking spaces, has been listed for sale for $1.95 million. William Caltrider Jr. of the Federal Realty Co. is the listing agent.

Built around 1900, the building for many years housed the Gombrecht and Benesch Furniture Store. It is currently owned by the Maran Real Estate Co., a family operation that also owns the Maran Printing Co., which is one of the building's occupants.

Maran Printing is planning to vacate the building, which is otherwise fully leased, and that move prompted the owners to put it up for sale, according to Mr. Caltrider. The price works out to $26 per square feet of leased space, he added.

* Construction work is scheduled to begin today on the City Crescent office building, a $37 million project that a group headed by Otis Warren plans for the northwest corner of Baltimore and Howard streets. Mr. Warren announced last month that he has reached agreement with a Japanese bank to provide construction financing.

* "Why Baltimore, Yes Baltimore: The Renaissance Continues" is the title of a seminar on downtown development that the Urban Land Institute is sponsoring at the Stouffers Harborplace Hotel, Pratt and South streets, on Jan. 16 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Speakers will include Honora Freeman, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., Rachel Edds, deputy director of the cityplanning department, and Laurie Schwartz, director of the Downtown Partnership. Admission is $15 per person and can be made through the ULI at 1-800-321-5011.

* A 22.8-acre parcel in Bowie that is zoned for residential development will be sold at an auction on the premises tomorrow at 10 a.m. Porten Sullivan was planning to build 146 town houses on the property, located south of Route 197 off Mitchellville Road, but is now the subject of foreclosure proceedings initiated by First American Bank. Michael Fox Auctioneers is handling the sale.

* The architectural firm of Kelly Clayton & Mojzisek has been commissioned by Fidelity & Deposit Companies of Maryland to complete construction documents for improvements to 130,000 square feet of office space that Commercial Credit Corp. leased at 300 St. Paul Place.

Kelly Clayton & Mojzisek will work closely with Laura Daniels, Dan Gilbert and Kay Tillman of F&D;'s in-house design staff.

Commercial Credit signed a 10-year lease for space in the St. Paul Street building last month, ending speculation that the company would move out of town.

* Donald Farmer has been named an associate at Cho, Wilks & Benn Inc. Architects. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a Master of Architecture degree in 1983 and has more than 12 years of experience in environmental planning and architecture.

* J. Eric Dorsch Sr. has joined Harbor View Contractors Inc. as director of marketing and development.

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