Verdict is awaited in DeChiaro-bank trialThe trial...


Verdict is awaited in DeChiaro-bank trial

The trial was last week, but there's no verdict yet in the tussle between the family of developer Ralph DeChiaro and Provident Bank of Maryland in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

A Provident spokesman said Judge John F. Fader II won't rule until Nov. 4 on the effort by the family to quash more than $1 million in guarantees for loans backed ultimately by assets of DeChiaro family trusts.

The family contends that Lawrence R. Rachuba, Mr. DeChiaro's son-in-law, lacked authority to pledge trust assets as collateral for the loans and that the guarantees should be set aside.

The DeChiaro family contends, in a lawsuit it filed last year against Provident and in defending itself against a related suit filed by Provident in 1990, that the bank knew that the pledges of trust assets were improper.

Usually, assets of so-called "spendthrift trusts," including the money at issue in this case, can't be pledged as collateral unless the trust stands to gain from taking the risk. The family contends that the loans benefited ventures owned by Mr. Rachuba, and that the trust gained nothing by extending the guarantees.

Provident contends that loans between DeChiaro family interests and Mr. Rachuba's businesses were common and benefited the trust. The bank's attorneys have contended in court papers that the family did not object to the arrangements until the loans, designed to help with the development of two Harford County projects, went into default.

The prospect of the verdict in the Provident suit seems to be shaking up a separate lawsuit between the DeChiaro heirs and Maryland National Bank, which was based on the same legal principles but involved much more money. The trial in that case had been set to begin yesterday. But Judge Fader's office said it was postponed to give the parties more time for settlement talks.

FDIC auction targets Lord Baltimore Hotel

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has set Dec. 1 and 2 as the dates for a national auction of distressed properties in which it will try to unload the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel for the fourth time.

The agency hopes that by including the Lord Baltimore in a pool of properties that are advertised nationally, the FDIC will attract more attention for the hotel, which has yet to be sold to anyone other than the FDIC in three earlier auctions.

The FDIC bought the hotel at the first auction in January. Two auctions this summer failed to meet the FDIC's minimum price of $6.9 million, so the property was withdrawn from sale.

RTKL Associates plans foreign service work

Even as President Bush promises to move his attention from the world stage to the domestic scene over the next four years, RTKL Associates Inc. is looking to turn more of its government architecture work toward the foreign policy front.

The Baltimore architecture firm said it received a $10 million, five-year contract with the U.S. State Department to do "miscellaneous architecture and engineering services at foreign service posts worldwide."

RTKL has turned to task order work, which often involves working on additions to or redesigns of existing space, as a way to compensate for the slower pace of new commercial construction during the recession. The firm has similar arrangements with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

"Considering that our billings last year were $53 million, $2 million is pretty big for one job," RTKL spokeswoman Ann Carper said. But not big enough, she said, for the firm to begin hiring architects to replace people laid off during the downturn.

IBM-Price addition wins architecture prize

The expanded home of T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. at 100 E. Pratt St. has been slowly attracting tenants but has had trouble getting respect. Now, the addition to the 600,000-square-foot building has won a Merit Award for architecture from the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"The project successfully deals with the scale of the existing skyline," said Martin Moeller, executive director of the Chapter. "The jurors liked the way the tower cantilevers over the existing building to integrate the entire building."

Even the white metal canopy at the building's top, which sparked controversy when the expansion opened last year (and led to a negative review in The Sun that called the building a "tinker toy tower") won the jurors' attention, Mr. Moeller said.

He said the judges liked it because it was an expression of the building's cantilevered design. "It wasn't just frivolous," he said.

The Merit Award is the second-highest honor the Chapter gives, behind the Award for Excellence. Mr. Moeller said 12 of the 65 to 70 buildings nominated for architecture were honored. There were four Awards of Excellence and eight Merit Awards.

He said 100 E. Pratt was the only Baltimore building chosen. It was eligible for the Washington awards, despite not being in the District of Columbia, because it was designed by the Washington office of the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The building, 79 percent leased or committed, is owned mainly by T. Rowe Price and IBM, which are its primary tenants.

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