City to sell firehouse, land for hotel

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The city's Board of Estimates agreed yesterday to sell an old firehouse on the northeast fringe of Mount Vernon and a small parcel near Camden Yards for two unrelated housing and hotel developments.

The firehouse, at 1312 Guilford Ave., will be converted along with several nearby office buildings into a 60-unit apartment complex with a mix of market-rate and low-income rents.

The board agreed to sell the station - one of five closed to save the city money in July 2000 - to developer William Hazlehurst Jr. for $70,000.

On the parcel of land - one-third of an acre at the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and Greene Street - will rise an 8-story, 126-room, limited-service hotel called The Inn at Camden Yards, according to the buyers.

The city is selling the property for $609,000 to a group that includes Next Realty Mid-Atlantic of Alexandria, Va., and Duane Taylor, a Baltimore developer.

"They're very different, but they're two additional tax-paying projects for the city," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development arm.

A vote on the sale of the property was delayed two weeks ago when questions arose about the price and real estate taxes owed by Taylor.

Taylor had been operating a parking lot at the site under a lease with the city that also gave him the right to buy the land for its appraised value. The appraisals came in as high as $1.29 million.

City officials also learned that Taylor had not paid real estate taxes due under the terms of his December 1999 lease on the property. Because of an apparent record-keeping glitch, the city never sent a tax bill, city officials said. The amount owed had not been determined.

The board approved the deal after a lawyer for the developers promised that the taxes would be paid and Brodie assured members that $609,000 was a fair price for the "small, difficultly configured" site.

The $10.6 million Guilford Avenue development will be known as Printers' Square because the office buildings involved were once home to publishing company Waverly Inc.

The city is selling the 1906 Beaux Arts firehouse on an "as-is" basis, meaning it will be not be responsible for cleaning up asbestos, lead paint and underground fuel storage tanks.

Half of the units will be rented at market rate, with the rest set aside for low-income residents, he said. Rents are expected to range between $530 and $875 for one-bedroom apartments, and $625 and $1,100 for two-bedroom units, Hazlehurst said.

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