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State is facing new time crunchNo one...


State is facing new time crunch

No one thought it would come to this, but the state may have to race the clock in its bid to buy 6 St. Paul Centre, one of the city's biggest office buildings.

Martin W. Walsh, Jr., secretary of the Department of General Services, last Friday wrote to Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Laurence Levitan asking that Mr. Levitan and Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, sign off on the proposed $12.2 million sale by today. The department needs their approval to buy the building.

The reason for the rush: The offer by the owner of the 305,000-square-foot building, Chemical Banking Corp. of New York, is good only through the end of March. After that, Chemical could choose to renew its offer or call the deal off.

Once the legislative leaders approve the deal, the state Board of Public Works must give its OK, too. And to give enough advance notice for a future session of the board, which meets on Wednesdays, the department wants a legislative sign-off by today. The department wants about 10 working days between board approval and the end of March, spokesman Dave Humphrey says.

But Ann Marie Zalewski, a principal analyst for the Department of Fiscal Services, the budget arm of the legislature, said staffers are still analyzing the governor's capital budget proposal for fiscal 1994. It includes about $10 million in work that 6 St. Paul still needs.

Meanwhile, a state government that has made news lately for wanting to buy office buildings is gearing up to sell one. The Board of Public Works is set to approve the $700,000 sale of the old state Hall of Records building in Annapolis to St. John's College.

The deal also calls for the college, which is expected to use the 23,500-square-foot building as a library, to pay $150,000 to move artifacts belonging to the state Archives.

The state will still use part of the building to house some of the governor's staff -- a rent-free deal that runs out at the end of 1994, in the last days of the Schaefer administration.

GAO to settle fight over HCFA site

Speaking of the government making waves in the office market, H-Day is in six days. That's H as in HCFA.

Next Tuesday, the U.S. General Accounting Office will try to settle the fight over where to put the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration. That's the deadline for resolving three appeals of the U.S. General Services Administration's August decision to keep HCFA in Woodlawn.

"It should be the grand finale," said Richard Burkard, a GAO attorney who is the hearing officer for the appeals. But the loser could always appeal the decision in the courts.

Inner Harbor West Joint Venture, which wanted to build the new HCFA headquarters near Oriole Park at Camden Yards, has filed three appeals of the decision awarding the deal to a joint venture of Boston Properties and James F. Knott Development Corp. The $122.6 million contract between the government and the Boston/Knott group would put the headquarters just past the end of Security Boulevard by 1995.

The 875,000-square-foot complex that Boston/Knott proposes would be bigger than any single-use local office building built during the 1980s boom.

Initially, Mr. Burkard says, the government is likely to announce only the result of the appeals, with no word on the reasoning. The government has closely guarded any information that might reveal the bidders' finances or affect the government's bargaining position, despite the amount of taxpayer money involved.

Long & Foster goes after small fry

When Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. merged its commercial operation with Barnes, Morris & Pardoe in 1991, it looked as if the combined firm's commercial real estate arm would concentrate on institutional-size deals. But that's about to change.

Long & Foster says it is going after the non-institutional commercial market again, using residential agents to drum up business for a division likely to handle lots of smaller-scale commercial deals.

"The division has 170 commercial agents, and our goal is to have approximately 500," said Owen Duke, vice president and general manager of the new Long & Foster division. He said it will serve an area from Pennsylvania through the Virginias.

That division will not compete with the institutional commercial department, which does business as Barnes, Morris, Pardoe & Foster.

RTC to auction area properties

Investors hoping to find bargains in the wreckage of the Baltimore/Washington real estate market can mark their calendars for next week, when the Resolution Trust Corp. auctions its repossessed properties from the corridor.

The auction won't send any shivers through the local market, because there are few local properties of any consequence on the block. The biggest Baltimore City commercial property on the list, for example, is a small building at 420 N. Howard St. that used to be a savings & loan branch.

The auctions are set for March 15, 16 and 18. The only one in Maryland is in College Park on the 18th.

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