RTKL aims to change terms of its...


RTKL aims to change terms of its lease

Wild rumors about what RTKL Associates Inc. is willing to do to get out of its lease at the soon-to-be-finished downtown tower Commerce Place are bogus. But Harold Adams, the architecture firm's chief executive officer, confirmed Monday that he is in talks aimed at slashing the amount of space RTKL will take in the building.

In a sense, RTKL is negotiating with itself, because it owns a piece of the $90 million, 450,000-square-foot building into which it is scheduled to move between Christmas and New Year's. The other partners are New York-based Harlan Co. and Kajima Development Corp. of Japan.

"They're willing to sit down and adjust the agreement to meet our current needs," Mr. Adams said. "They have been very understanding with us."

Meeting RTKL's current needs means leasing a lot less space than the 100,000 square feet the firm signed up for in 1989. RTKL laid off about 200 people last year (out of 670) as the firm took its first annual loss in decades, and that means Commerce Place's only tenant so far doesn't need as much space as it once did.

Harlan's Kevin McAndrews confirms the talks. "There has been discussion and there will be some announcement," he said. "It will be a significant reduction but they will still be a significant tenant."

He hesitated to say just how significant. Asked whether the amount of space would shrink as much as RTKL's staff -- about 30 percent last year -- he said, "that's not too far off."

In the meantime, Mr. Adams said RTKL's business is picking up some -- good news to a development industry that sees architecture work as a sign of what's coming up for them.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II has set an Oct. 20 trial date in the battle royal between Maryland National Bank and the family of developer Ralph DeChiaro over trust funds Mr. DeChiaro set up for his family dating back to 1963.

The charges read like 1980s redux: Developer establishes trusts to set up heirs for life, and makes the bank the trustee in charge of conserving the fortune. Years later, the bank allows trust assets to be pledged as collateral for loans to the developer's son-in-law, developer Lawrence Rachuba, loans that later went bad.

The heirs say Maryland National failed in its duty as trustee to protect the trust assets; it wants the loan guarantees voided and seeks damages, too. Both sides have filed for summary judgment in their favor.

Maryland National is contesting the allegations, but it may not be easy. Judge Fader, in a hearing on a motion in January, said the evidence up to that date made it seem that the bank had committed an "absolute, unbelievable, egregious breach of trust," according to transcripts provided by a DeChiaro family attorney.

Don't count on Judge Fader to step out of the case because he expressed a strong view, however. Maryland law has said a trial judge can't withdraw from a case on which the judge has an opinion unless that bias came from something the judge learned outside of court or unless the opinion is so strong that no new evidence or argument can shake it.

In the meantime, Mr. Rachuba's Howard County home and horse farm is on the market. The asking price is $2.7 million.

Only one Manekin left with real estate firm

And then there was one. For now, anyway.

Robert Manekin's decision to leave Manekin Corp., the real estate development and brokerage firm founded by his father and uncle, leaves only one member of the family's "second generation" -- Mr. Manekin's cousin Donald Manekin -- still working for the company.

Robert Manekin, 43, is moving to Julien J. Studley Inc., a New York-based commercial realty brokerage and consulting firm, where he will be a senior managing director in charge of developing client relationships and new business in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, the I-270 corridor in Montgomery and Frederick counties, and any mid-Atlantic markets such as Wilmington, Del., and Richmond, Va., where Studley doesn't have an office.

"Studley doesn't have an office in Atlanta, so the sky's the limit," Mr. Manekin said. He will work out of Bethesda, beginning Oct. 1.

Mr. Manekin said speculative development, which took up much of his time for seven of his years at Manekin, is likely to stay dormant indefinitely. To fill that gap, his old job had been moving toward more fee-based real estate businesses such as consulting, in addition to commission work like the brokerage of Manekin's existing properties.

"I evolved into development work and I evolved out of development work," said Mr. Manekin, whose brother Richard left Manekin Corp. in 1989. The new work "was something I was doing and I liked," he said. "When the issue of Studley came up it was a chance to try that in a national organization."

Mr. Manekin praises the colleagues he left behind at Manekin, and said it's way too soon to assume the family won't stay active in the company in the future: He, his brother and his cousin have a total of 11 children.

"There could be a whole passel of third-generation kids," he said.

* For a roundup of commercial real estate leasing activity in Maryland, see Page 2F.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad