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BDC recommends tax breaks to developer of “Superblock”

Development agency won't divulge the amount of tax breaks requested.

bdc board

The BDC board before going into closed session this morning to approve a tax break for Lexington Square Partners. Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos is second from right.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

The Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) today recommended that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake approve property tax breaks to the developer of the $150 million retail and apartment complex on Baltimore’s West Side known as  “Superblock.”

At its monthly meeting, the quasi-public agency went into closed session to approve a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for Lexington Square Partners, a group of New York and Atlanta businessmen who have held exclusive development rights to the city-owned block since 2007.

M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the BDC, refused to divulge the amount of PILOT breaks recommended by the agency, saying it involved privileged financial information.

Under a PILOT, a developer pays 5% of the assessed value of the improved property for a set number of years.

Brodie said the board unanimously recommended the issuance of PILOTs for two aspects of the Superblock project – a 296-unit apartment tower and a 650-space parking garage.

The BDC board deferred action on the developer’s request for a PILOT for 217,444 square feet of proposed retail space.

The issuance of PILOTs to glitzy Harbor East and Inner Harbor projects has sparked several protest demonstrations by Occupy Baltimore and BUILD (Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development).

“Moving Forward”

The head of the City Council’s taxation committee, Carl Stokes, has called for a moratorium on new PILOTs until the Council reviews the whole process. This followed a report by a task force appointed by Stokes that questioned various aspects of the administration of PILOTs.

Brodie said today that the BDC does not feel compelled to follow Stokes’ request for a moratorium. “The view of our staff and the BDC board is to move forward” with development projects that benefit the city, he said.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake has made the long-stalled Superblock project one of her top priorities. The project has been delayed by court cases, a preservation battle and a still-unresolved controversy on how to commemorate a 1955 civil rights sit-in at a former Read’s Drug Store, which is part of the project.

Preservationists say Lexington Square Partners has been complicit in the delays by refusing to follow guidelines for the existing historic buildings on the site.

The developer has requested – and received – three extensions from the Rawlings-Blake administration to continue their exclusive rights to the property. The latest extension ends on April 30.

Brodie said the board acted today after concluding that “the private-sector economics won’t work” for the Superblock project.

The BDC refers to this as the “but for” rule, meaning that a privately-financed project won’t happen “but for” tax subsidies proffered by the city.

Brodie described the project as “a game changer” for the city’s West Side, and said he and the developers were ready to wait out the court cases to see the project to completion.

The BDC closed today’s meeting by invoking an exemption to Maryland’s Open Meetings Act pertaining to financial or proprietary information whose public disclosure would injure the party involved.

 

 

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  • Art Cohen

    When are we going to learn as a tax revenue starved old Eastern Coast City that little is to be gained and lots is to be lost by throwing tax breaks at non-local big center city developers (including Grand Pricks racing events)?  Gar Alperovitz’s op-ed in yesterday’s (Feb 22) Sun pointed to other more creative, effective, and local ways to improve cities.   In this great city of ours, surely we can find ways to marshal enough openness, imagination, and humility to do better.

  • Mark Adams

    Who wants to shop on the so-called Superblock?  I don’t see any demand for commercial activity at the site. There are only so many prospective shoppers, office tenants, and apartment dwellers in the city. I don’t think the existing consumer base is going to be drawn to the area.

  • Anonymous

    “M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the BDC, refused to divulge the amount
    of PILOT breaks recommended by the agency, saying it involved privileged
    financial information.”

    Wouldn’t you like to see this quote instead?:

    “The citizens of Baltimore refused to give away tax breaks to developers without, at the very minimum,  knowing the amount of the benefit, saying it involved privileged city space and land use.”

  • Tom

    This BDC, screw-the-citizens gentrification project pushed by our notoriously corrupt  criminal agency , who’s controversial czar, M.J. Brodie representing Baltimore’s, old white establishment is a continuing outrage. More developer welfare tax breaks for a misguided ten year old scorched earth project intended to clear out African Americans and Koreans from their commerce and residency on the west side needs to be vigorously protested.

  • City4fr

    The design for this project is so busted. 

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