Pikesville company bags Governor's RunA Pikesville land...

Pikesville company bags Governor's Run

A Pikesville land development firm took the prize at Friday's auction of Governor's Run, bidding $5.1 million for the 150-acre tract along U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, land that Howard County has approved for construction of 183 homes.


Elkridge Plaza Inc., an affiliate of Greenebaum & Rose Inc., hopes to cash in on the fact that the real estate slump and credit squeeze stopped land development in its tracks during 1991 and 1992. Those problems have led to another: a shortage of lots.

"[Governor's Run] is the only game in town in that area," said Jack Billig, head of the A. J. Billig & Co. auction firm, which conducted the sale.


Auctioneer Dan Billig, Jack Billig's son, added: "Anything that is nearly ready to go is very desirable because no one has been doing any development. [Governor's Run] was a well-known property and the timing was right."

Stewart J. Greenebaum, president of Greenebaum & Rose, said, "We intend to develop it pretty much as contemplated. We hope to develop it as quickly as we can."

Mr. Greenebaum said the development firm has not yet chosen a builder for houses at the site. In the housing market, developers typically concentrate on getting county permits and building infrastructure such as roads and sewers before selling individual lots to builders, who in turn sell the homes.

"We view this as a very high-quality location," he said. "They're very large lots. Some of the lots are spectacularly attractive because of the terrain. They have beautiful vistas."

But not so beautiful that former lender Maryland National Bank will get all its money back from the sale. Jack Billig said last month that the failed developers of Governor's Run had owed the bank, which has since been taken over by NationsBank, about $10 million.

Belt's fishing for help improving warehouse

Belt's Corp. has a really big fish story. About 100,000 square feet worth.

The Fells Point-based manager/developer of waterfront warehouses said Monday that it plans to convert 100,000 square feet of warehouse space to attract life science and marine biology users, following deals with the Center of Marine Biotechnology to lease 10,000 square feet, and a 15,000-square-foot deal with the National Aquarium, Vice President David W. Baird said.


"Fells Point's fortunes were built on its maritime industries," Mr. Baird said. "We view this as a natural evolution of Fells Point's ties to the waterfront.

"We really believe the [COMB and aquarium deals] have created a critical mass" that has led other marine and research-oriented companies to inquire about space in and around Fells Point, he said.

The renovation of the SAGA Building at 2001 Aliceanna St. also acknowledges a fact of urban real estate: older, downtown warehouses like the structures that dominate Belt's 1.2 million-square-foot portfolio have trouble competing with newer suburban warehouses.

"We've embarked on a campaign to convert some of our older, less functional buildings to higher uses," said Mr. Baird, acknowledging that the SAGA Building is basically obsolete as a warehouse.

The catch is that the conversion is expensive -- as much as $40 to $150 a square foot in tenant improvements that Mr. Baird said banks are reluctant to finance. He said the company is working with the state Department of Economic and Employment Development to come up with a package of loan guarantees for the conversion.

DEED and the Baltimore Development Corp. have helped Belt's with planning the conversion, he said.


Realty firm beefs up health care tenants

Health care has stayed a growth business throughout the recession, a fact that has not been lost on real estate folks who have had a very different experience.

MacKenzie/O'Conor Piper & Flynn Commercial Real Estate Services LLC has certainly noticed. This month, the firm landed three deals that represent an expansion of its year-old push into the real estate end of health care.

"The medical industry seems to be the one industry that's on the move," said Robert J. Aumiller, executive vice president of the Lutherville firm. And often health care executives, understandably, don't know as much about real estate as a firm such as MacKenzie. "When you take [MacKenzie's background] a medical group that needs A to Z services, that's a good market."

MacKenzie/O'Conor's new deals: a listing to lease the new Greater Baltimore Medical Center Physician's Pavilion in Owings Mills; a consulting agreement with Harbor Hospital Center in Baltimore; and a deal to help a southern New Jersey hospital company consider plans to expand its headquarters, which could lead to an office requirement for as much as 245,000 square feet.

Mr. Aumiller said the firm got a leg up on chasing this new business even before MacKenzie/O'Conor was created last year. The firm grew out of the merger of MacKenzie & Associates' brokerage operation and the commercial division of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn.


MacKenzie's development arm already had about 15 percent of its portfolio leased to medical tenants, he said.

"There's a lot to it," because of the special needs posed by all the equipment doctors use, he said. "It's not a typical office."