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BDC seeks to revive long-stalled development on South Calvert St.

City panel goes into closed session to make recommendation to the mayor.

Above: The former USF&G building at 26 S. Calvert Street would be converted into residential housing and retail space.

On the heels of the failed “Hyatt at City Center” project, the Baltimore Development Corp. today reviewed a more modest effort by a Philadelphia developer to convert the former USF&G building and other city-owned properties into residential units.

The proposal by the PMC Property Group to turn five long-vacant buildings on South Calvert St. and an adjoining building on Water St. into 140 market-rate apartments was placed before the BDC board at its monthly meeting.

The plan succeeds Mark Sapperstein’s 2009 proposal to tear down the buildings and erect a pair of Hyatt hotels and a parking garage on the site.

The board promptly went into closed session to discuss a financing plan proposed by PMC. Last month, The Brew reported of how the board goes about closing its public sessions under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

The closed meeting, lasting 49 minutes, concluded with a decision by the board to recommend a course of action to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said BDC’s interim president Kimberly Clark.

Clark would not disclose the board’s recommendation, citing an exemption under the Open Meetings Act allowing financial material to be held confidential.

Asked if PMC had requested a PILOT or other tax incentives from the city, Clark said tax breaks were not part of today’s discussion. She indicated that the sales price of the properties was a topic.

Track Record in Baltimore

PMC specializes in renovating industrial buildings into upscale residential units. In Baltimore, it has rehabbed the historic Abell Building on Eutaw Street and the former National Enamel & Stamping factory in South Baltimore.

The 12-story, limestone-clad USF&G building has been owned by the city since 1995, when it was purchased for $800,000. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The limestone-clad USF&G building has mostly laid vacant since it was acquired by the city in 1995. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Details of the group’s latest plan was not offered at the public session, except that the developer wants to convert ground-level space to 30,000 square feet of retail.

The city acquired the 12-story USF&G tower in 1995 for $800,000 from Riggs National Bank, according to state tax records. The building is currently worth $844,300.

Between 2002 and 2005, the city spent another $1,965,000 to acquire four buildings at 30-36 South Calvert Street as part of its plan to convert the northwest corner of Calvert and Lombard streets into a major hotel complex.

In February 2009, the Board of Estimates entered into a land disposition agreement with developers Mark Sapperstein, Benjamin Greenwald and Joseph Haskins to build the Hyatt at City Center.

The 450,000-square-foot complex would include Hyatt Place, Hyatt Summerfield Suites, a 300-space parking garage, and residential, commercial and retail space.

The BDC said that the project would generate 450 construction jobs and pay about $60 million in city taxes over a 20-year period.

Hotel Project Stalls

Almost immediately, however, the project fell victim to the recession, and the developers failed to pay the $4.5 million purchase price for the land.

Last December, Downtown Partnership called on the BDC to seek new plans for the City Center site. Declaring the hotel sector overbuilt, the business group said the city needed to convert vacant commercial space downtown into residential units aimed at the young, urbanite market. PMC’s plan closely fits into the Partnership’s proposal.

PMC wants to settle with the city as soon as possible and begin reconstruction next spring, according to BDC development officer Kerry DeVilbiss.

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