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Condo project is in default

The Baltimore Sun

The recent rise in foreclosures isn't hitting only homeowners.

An apartment complex just north of Baltimore that is in the midst of being converted to condominiums is in default and is to be auctioned off next month, the auctioneer said yesterday. Renovations of the 508-unit Rodgers Forge Condominiums, built about 1955, began last year as the cool-down in the housing market accelerated.

Developer Triton Rodgers Forge LLC, confident that the auction won't occur, is refinancing the property and expects to finish the process by April 30.

"Once the refinance is complete, the developer intends to recommence construction at the site, and the foreclosure proceedings will be moot," said Eddie Price, general counsel for Annapolis-based Triton Real Estate Partners, of which Triton Rodgers Forge is an affiliate.

Daniel Billig, a partner with A.J. Billig & Co. Auctioneers, which is handling the scheduled auction, said the number of high-value foreclosures is abnormal.

They include Triton's and a condo conversion in Rockville, which Price said is also being refinanced. But Billig is also working on foreclosures of significant developable properties in Aberdeen and the Havre de Grace area.

Those four properties together are worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars, he said.

"It's pretty unusual to have cases this large, this many of them at one time," said Billig, who isn't sure what is causing the increase.

Foreclosures up

"Whether it reflects on the strength of the borrower or maybe their ability to hold [on] in a slower market, I can't answer the question," he said.

Residential foreclosures jumped an average of 10 percent in the Baltimore area last year, and the number has continued to rise this year, according to court records. The increase is predominantly in the suburbs.

Economists blame the trend on the reversal from housing boom to slump and on risky mortgages buyers assumed to get their feet in the door. But it is unclear what pushed the Rodgers Forge property into default.

Price said it was "not particularly" related to the state of the housing market but that he is uncertain about the cause because he took on the project only this week.

Many vacancies

The sharp slowdown in sales, which has killed some condo conversion plans in the Baltimore-Washington area, couldn't have helped.

More than half of the Rodgers Forge complex's approximately 500 units are vacant, according to the auctioneer. About 60 have been renovated, and a dozen of those have been handed over to new owners. Forty-four are under contract.

The units, most of which have two bedrooms and a den, are selling for $250,000 to $350,000, Price said.

"Obviously, there's been a downturn in the market, which has slowed the construction, but it looks like things are heading back in the right direction," he said.

Triton bought the property in 2005. When the conversion plans were announced, some residents in the surrounding area south of Towson cheered the planned renovations, but people living at the complex worried about what would become of them. Rents were as low as $595 a month last year, a moderate option in an expensive metropolitan area.

Relocation help

The Baltimore County government is working with residents who can't afford to buy, trying to help them relocate. Officials hadn't heard about the foreclosure proceedings.

"Our people were actually just there today, meeting with some of the residents," Marjorie Hampson, a spokeswoman for the county, said yesterday.


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