Deal halts building auction on Block


An auction of a building on the Block was canceled yesterday after landlords of the Circus Show Bar and the Big Top bookstore worked out a deal with the company that owns half of the mortgage on their building.

The auction had been anticipated as a gauge of investor interest in properties on the Block.

Joseph Schaller, an attorney for the creditor, Barclay National Mortgage Group of Baltimore, said the story was so complicated it couldn't be told over the phone. A look at the court record of the 18-month foreclosure battle shows he was right.

Paul Cooper of Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. in Towson said the building at 427-429 E. Baltimore St. was sold in 1977 to Philip Beckhes and Jerome Ludwig, with a mortgage granted to Corinne and Arthur Fraidin.

After the Fraidins died, Mrs. Fraidin's will left half the mortgage to Jacob Fraidin and half to Gloria Fraidin. Jacob Fraidin sold his part of the mortgage to Barclay.

But in 1991 Andre Weitzman, a creditor of Mr. Fraidin's, challenged the sale of the half-mortgage to Barclay. Mr. Weitzman demanded in court that the building's owners pay mortgage money earmarked for Barclay to him instead.

Mr. Schaller said, and court papers concur, that the owners paid the money for the Barclay mortgage into an escrow fund until everything was sorted out. The settlement, whose terms weren't disclosed, was worked out last week, Mr. Cooper said.

"Our borrower wasn't in default," Mr. Schaller said. "It was a dispute about where the money was going."

China a challenge for Baltimore architect

Roy Higgs has never done much of his architecture work in Baltimore. But as he sees his firm's first job in China emerge from the ground, even a world-traveled architect who has offices in Paris and Jakarta, Indonesia, can be a little daunted.

"I've never seen traffic jams like that. It defied belief," said Mr. Higgs, chief executive of Design Development Group Inc., a 50-employee firm on Charles Street. "What has been daunting is the mundane day-to-day details of the project -- getting there, getting faxes through, getting a response. . . . But the locals we've been working with are very enthusiastic -- extremely high-energy."

His project: a $360 million, 4.8 million-square-foot development that will include eight office and residential towers, as well as 1.2 million square feet of street-level stores, in Fuzhou, about halfway between Hong Kong and Shanghai.

His firm was hired to design the master plan and to make nTC specific plans for the first phase by teaming with a Chinese government-funded design institute. DDG won over seven other teams from the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Mr. Higgs said.

"The reason our project was selected was because of the way we planned and designed so that every major use [the retail, office and housing] came down to the ground," he said. That makes it easier for developers to open some of each use at the same time, rather than risk building a large chunk of office, housing or retail that would saturate the market.

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