Swirnow secures contol of downtown parcels for medical mart


Developer Richard Swirnow cleared another key hurdle this week with his plan to build a medical trade mart downtown, when no other development team challenged his bid for control of two city parcels.

City officials had set Monday at 4:30 p.m. as the deadline for competing developers to submit proposals for developing the city block bounded by Camden, Pratt, Eutaw and Howard streets and a portion of the land and air rights where a state group is planning a $150-million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Honora Freeman, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said the city received no proposals other than the one from Mr. Swirnow's team, the Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd. The developer's plan also calls for the use of 6 1/2 acres east of the BT& O warehouse and the former Camden train station. Last fall, the Maryland Stadium Authority gave the developer an exclusive privilege to study and market those properties until August 1.

Ms. Freeman said the city will now review Mr. Swirnow's proposal and decide whether to award him rights to the city property as well. If it does, she said, it most likely will give the developers a negotiating period that lasts as long as the state period.

City officials have backed the medical mart, officially called the International Life Sciences Center, from the beginning as a key component in their strategy to make Baltimore a center for the life sciences.

Preliminary plans call for the construction of up to 2.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space for medical groups and suppliers, including three towers in the air rights over the MARC train line. Mr. Swirnow also has proposed a 1,000-room convention headquarters hotel in the air rights above the convention center expansion.

The developer has said he needs both the city and state parcels in order to carry out a project that is so large it cannot be easily duplicated elsewhere.

He is using the study period to start marketing the project to prospective users and to begin preliminary design and cost studies. If the studies indicate the project will be successful, he has said, he will negotiate with city and state officials about obtaining long-term control of the properties. No properties can actually be turned over to the developer without approval of the city's Board of Estimates or the state's Board of public Works.


A group headed by Howard Offit of R. S. Properties has taken 100 percent ownership of the 10 W. Eager St., a 20,000-square-foot office building that contains several tenants. Mr. Offit co-developed the property several years ago in joint venture with Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse but assumed 100 percent ownership last September, according to developer Bill Struever.

The three-story building was headquarters for the public relations and advertising firm of Trahan, Burden and Charles until it moved to the southwest corner of Charles and Chase streets last year.

Since then, much of the space has been occupied on a short-term basis by Investment Counselors of Maryland, which is expanding its headquarters at 803-805 Cathedral St. and needed temporary quarters until work on its building is complete later this year.

W. C. Pinkard & Co. listed the Eager Street building for sale last year for $1.4 million. Mr. Offit could not be reached, but the building is still for sale through Pinkard, Mr. Struever said.


Around the region:

* The RREEF Funds of Chicago, a group that manages $4.3 billion in pension fund real estate investments, has purchased Hampton South Business Centre, Phases I and II, at the intersection of Ritchie Drive and Ritchie Road in Capitol Heights. The project consists of an occupied 103,980 square foot warehouse plus another 4.58-acre parcel nearby, large enough for another 64,000 square foot warehouse. Signet Bank of Richmond sold the property for an undisclosed sum.

* Wroxeter-On-Severn, a 27-room mansion that was built on Rugby Cove Road near Annapolis in 1909 and overlooks the Severn River, was acquired at auction for $600,000 by the lender who backed a development team that was attempting to market the property. Auctioneer Andy Stafford of Atlantic Auctions said he could not identify the buyer except to say it is a private lender rather than a bank. The same buyer bid $350,000 to "buy back" a 1.04 acre waterfront parcel nearby that was marketed available for residential development, while a third parcel containing a three bedroom ranch house drew no bids, he said. More than two dozen people attended the auction, which was held last Saturday.

* Atlantic Builders Group has begun construction of a new home for the Space Systems Laboratory at the University of Maryland at College Park.

The two-story, 13,000 square foot structure, known as the Neutral Buoyancy Research Facility, is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a loan from the University of Maryland. Verkerke Boyles Associates of Baltimore is the architect. The project is scheduled for completion in the summer.

* Donna Leanos has joined the staff of KLNBTManagement Services in Baltimore as a property manager specializing in retail properties.

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