TCMIE bets on recovery with Cecil County...



MIE bets on recovery with Cecil County land

Catonsville-based MIE Investment Co. has placed a major bet on a recovery in the industrial real estate market by buying a 150-acre plot of land in Cecil County, where it could build up to 1.5 million square feet of warehouses.

Land sales, which all but dried up during the recession, remain slow. Developers still are wary of the time and risks needed to wring profits from a fresh piece of dirt in a glutted market.

But MIE marketing director Jerry Wit says the company was convinced that this tract at Exit 100 of Interstate 95 in North East is an exception.

"There is a demand out there," he said, pointing to big Harford County warehouse users such as Mercedes-Benz, which leases an MIE facility. French tire giant Michelin also recently moved a distribution facility to Harford. "Harford County has been knocking them dead. This is an extension of Harford County."

The northern Maryland location also will help lure tenants who need to distribute goods between Philadelphia and Washington, says. "The project is as much a function of the Delaware market as Baltimore, and Delaware is fairly tight."

Jerry White, owner of the P. Gerald White Inc. brokerage firm in Wilmington, Del., says the vacancy rate for warehouse space in southern New Castle County, Del., approaches 30 percent. But he says there's room for MIE's project because much of the vacant space is away from major highways or too old to compete.

MIE, in partnership with the Stewart family of York, Pa., bought the land from Peninsula Industrial Park Inc., which has a warehouse park of its own across the street, Mr. Wit says. The land was slated to be a later phase of the Peninsula park before the owners decided to sell. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Mr. Wit says the Stewart family already owns several thousand acres of land near I-95 in Harford and Cecil counties, most of which is used for sand quarrying.

The partners plan to develop the project by offering tenants built-to-suit warehouses or by subdividing the land, Mr. Wit says. The group does not plan speculative construction.

Provident renews lease in Woodlawn

Provident Bank of Maryland said yesterday that it has agreed to Baltimore County's biggest office lease of the year, as it renewed its lease on about 83,000 square feet of space at the Rutherford Business Center in Woodlawn.

The deal on the Rouse Co.-owned building ends a five-month search coordinated by MacKenzie/O'Conor Piper & Flynn Commercial Real Estate Services. Provident had said it wanted to check around Baltimore County and Baltimore City in hopes of capitalizing on a trend toward renewing office leases at lower rents.

Terms of the new lease were not released.

Mid-Atlantic REIT takes over BTR Realty

After years of planning and months of machinations, the deal is finished: BTR Realty Inc. of Linthicum is no more, Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust has been created and financed to take over BTR's business as a real estate investment trust, and the company's three-year process of financial reorganization is complete.

The merger of BTR into MART became effective Saturday, MART President and Chief Executive F. Patrick Hughes said yesterday. He says the company, restructured as a real estate investment trust, will be more income-oriented, with shareholders seeing less opportunity for explosive upsides in good times and less risk in bad times.

"We're able to pay a dividend as well as grow by acquisition, both of which will help the shareholders," he said.

Current income from a REIT is normally higher than from a company such as BTR because a REIT normally does not pay corporate income tax. Instead, the trust pays at least 95 percent of its net income as dividends to shareholders, who pay personal income tax on the money.

The conversion also brought fresh capital to the Linthicum-based company, which is primarily an operator of community-based retail centers. MART sold $36 million worth of stock and $60 million worth of subordinated debentures as part of the conversion.

The debt carries a 7 5/8 percent interest rate, compared to an average of about 9 percent that BTR was paying on $85 million in debt that the stock and bonds replaced, Mr. Hughes said. The savings would have turned the company's $1.5 million net loss for the first half of 1993 into net profit of about $800,000.

"I think the results speak for themselves," Mr. Hughes said. "Obviously, you always would have preferred a higher stock price and paying more in dividends, but we came from a very unsure future to being a player on the playing field."

RTC to auction off nine Md. properties

The Resolution Trust Corp. will auction nine Anne Arundel County and Eastern Shore properties Sept. 23. The sites range from the remaining units in the Homeland Professional Center office condominium in Annapolis to time shares in Ocean City. The auctions will be held at different sites; call Interstate Auction Co. in Annapolis, (410) 263-1717, for details.

Auctioneer A. J. Billig & Co. on Monday sold the old Larry's Pontiac site at 9043 Liberty Road in Randallstown for $1.005 million to Marius Sessomes.

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