Herbert Greenbaum has been waiting for this day for more than nine years, waiting for the state to fulfill a promise, waiting to get on with his life and business.
Later this morning, the Maryland Stadium Authority is expected to approve the purchase of Greenbaum's kitchen and bathroom showroom at 1201 S. Howard St. and two other adjacent properties as part of a plan to replace parking spots lost to construction of the Ravens' $175 million stadium at Camden Yards.
But as the state completes the acquisition of Greenbaum's expansive showroom, Lee Furniture Co. Inc. and Amotex Plastics Co., talks continue with the owners of Hammerjacks, a warehouse-like maze of bars, dance floors and concert hall.
"We really need the parking, so we plan to purchase all four properties," said Bruce H. Hoffman, the stadium authority's executive director. "But while we believe the property owners are satisfied and we're satisfied, it's not really a deal until the authority says it is."
Hoffman said an agreement to acquire Hammerjacks was still weeks away, because of the size and complexity of its land and building.
Of the total price tag, Hammerjacks is expected to cost the most, at about $5 million, sources familiar with the negotiations said. Neither Hammerjacks' owner Lou Principio nor his attorney returned telephone calls for comment.
Before football stadium construction began, the location had about 5,000 spaces; an estimated 2,200 were lost to the football stadium. The four South Howard Street businesses are on an eight-acre swath of land wide enough for more than 900 cars.
In all, the stadium authority will likely pay less than $10 million for the right to demolish the four businesses, although neither Hoffman nor the potential sellers would discuss specific prices.
If the stadium authority blesses the deal, as expected, it will go before the state's Board of Public Works for final approval Dec. 18.
By Jan. 16, Greenbaum, Principio and the others would have to leave, the din from the nightclub replaced by the hum of construction crews' giant cranes, earthmovers and floodlights. Hoffman said the stadium authority hoped to have the parking ready by April 1, the opening day for the 1997 baseball season at Oriole Park.
The stadium authority's vote, if approved, will conclude a more than nine-year struggle between the business owners and the state, which had pledged to acquire the property if an NFL team ever returned to Baltimore.
But by the time the Cleveland Browns announced plans to pull up stakes and move here last November, the stadium authority had backed off, saying that the four properties might not be required. Since then, Greenbaum has bided time at his 70,000-square-foot showroom.
"We negotiated a price that we believed was satisfactory," said Robert S. Hillman, a Whiteford, Taylor & Preston partner representing Herbert Greenbaum & Associates Inc.
While declining to reveal the stadium authority's offer, Hillman said the price for the building "wasn't anywhere near" the $1.4 million budgeted in 1987. Still, Greenbaum's personal property and equipment that will come with the building might push the final cost over that figure.
In the meantime, Greenbaum is searching for another city site where he can set up shop, although it's doubtful he will find another one topped by a white steeple that peeks over Interstate 395.
"At least it's over and done with," Greenbaum said.
Pub Date: 12/11/96