Baltimore developer P. David Bramble and his firm MCB Real Estate have struck a deal to acquire Harborplace, once a central part of the reconstruction of Baltimore Inner Harbor in the 1980s, due to judicial review.
The deal, if approved by a Baltimore District Court judge who oversees the trial, will pave the way for what Bramble described as extensive reconstruction efforts to “completely rethink” faded shopping and revitalize downtown waterfront.
What this transformation will look like is yet to be determined, Bramble said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, and will be shaped by “massive” and “full” community engagement and the design process to assess what Bramble called the “front porch ». from Baltimore. “
“We want it to be local, we want it to be real, we want it to represent the best of Baltimore, and we really want it to be a reflection of the whole city,” said Bramble, who along with partner Peter Pinkard MCB Managing Partner.
Bramble described years of out-of-town ownership and the influx of national networks that are eroding the local character of Harborplace as the main reasons for the decline of once-innovative development.
Bramble declined to describe the financial terms of the deal, which would have allowed his company to acquire the property which has been controlled by recipient IVL Group LLC of New Jersey for nearly three years. The purchase agreement between the recipient and Bramble, MCB Real Estate, is expected to be sued in the coming days.
“This is a great result for Baltimore and its residents,” said Jan Logovitz, a court-appointed lawyer and director of Trigild IVL Group. “We are excited that this sale will move forward with MCB.”
In May 2019, a Baltimore District Court judge appointed IVL Group owners of the twin pavilions from the hands of former owner Ashkenazy Acquisitions Corp., a New York real estate firm that bought the property in 2012 for $ 98.5 million and later failed to repay the loan.
The iconic complex collapsed under Ashkenazi rule, declining and witnessing a steady outflow of tenants that was further exacerbated by the pandemic. Harbourplace has joined the court proceedings at the request of Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas after Ashkenazi failed to repay the loan or fail to repay a court decision obtained by a former tenant of Harbourplace Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for the conditions in the mall.
The Deutsche Bank Trust, a mortgage holder’s trustee, has sued after Ashkenazi failed to repay a $ 76 million loan, saying in his lawsuit that he needed “help to alleviate Harborplace’s unfortunate decline over the past few years.” Several longtime tenants, including Urban Outfitters, Five Guys, Noodles & Co., La Tasca, Edo Sushi, Lenny’s, Fire & Ice and The Fudgery, have moved into the pavilions during a long-delayed renovation.
Earlier this year, H&M, a clothing retailer that held the complex for more than a decade, closed, leaving only a few tenants. Ripley’s Believe-it-or-No-Odditorium, Build-A-Bear and Johnny Rockets diner have also closed since the pandemic.
According to the latest recipient report filed in court at Harborplace, which leased 48% at the end of February, total operating income was $ 494,626 for the first two months of the year and a loss of $ 195,393.
Now for tax purposes, the state estimates the two pavilions at about $ 23.5 million.
“Today we are starting a new chapter for Harborplace,” said Baltimore Mayor Brendan M. Scott. “Dave has my full support and the support of my entire administration as we breathe new life into this Baltimore landmark. I have had a city lawyer work with him since the beginning of the sentencing process, and I am still committed to making it happen. “
Asked whether the city would provide financial assistance for development, Scott’s spokesman James Bentley said the “mayor is working to restore Harborplace as a landmark for both residents and guests and to consider any requests for assistance.”
State Secretary Maggie Mackintosh, a Democrat from Baltimore and chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers have included more than $ 60 million in infrastructure projects around Inner Harbor and other investments, including expanding Rush Field Park, in the state budget pending. iodine reconstruction of Harborplace.
“I’m thrilled with this developer because he is [Bramble] grew up in Baltimore, lives in the city, graduated from the city college, “said Mackintosh. “His whole life is invested in this city, and that’s exactly what we need to transform the Inner Harbor.”
“In the 1970s, another son of West Baltimore, William Donald Schaefer, had a vision of what this part of Baltimore might be like with some investment and hard work,” said Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore. “I couldn’t be more pleased that David took on this challenge to fulfill the Harborplace promise for future generations of Baltimores.”
Bramble, a native of Baltimore and a resident of Madison Park, has in recent years built a growing portfolio that includes a number of events in Baltimore and nationally. His company is behind the Yard 56 project in Grectown, which used the first investment in the federal opportunity zone in the city and acquired part of the Clipper Mill and the Rotunda building. At the Northwood Plaza mall near Morgan State University, which MCB is rebuilding at Northwood Commons, German grocer Lidl has agreed to open its first store in Baltimore this year.
Harborplace attracted the country’s attention when it first opened for recognition and influx of visitors in 1980. The shopping complex, built by The Rouse Co., served as the main attraction of Baltimore’s inner harbor and helped inspire a wave of similar waterfront renovation projects in cities across the country.
But Harborplace has been in a long-term decline for more than a decade, faltering from rising vacancies, damage to buildings and what some have seen as mismanagement by a number of owners. Phillips Seafood, one of the original tenants, left in 2011.
Bramble linked Harborplace’s struggle to a combination of failure to adapt to changing times, neglect by past owners and loss of local ties.
“When it opened, it was a huge success: it was cool, it was local, it was authentic,” Bramble said, “and over time, when it fell into the hands of people who were not related to Baltimore, it was over.” which you can get … at any airport in the country or at any mall. “
Bramble plans to rethink Harborplace’s “built-up environment,” which he called a “disaster,” so as to take advantage of the waterfront’s proximity near a key downtown intersection. He sees the successful project as a push for a traditional downtown commercial area that is experiencing problems due to businesses leaving, some moving to new Harbor East and Harbor Point buildings east of Inner Harbor.
“People want it to connect with water,” he said. “Our job is to fix the embedded environment, come up with a rethink of the embedded environment that reconnects it all and makes us all really excited again from the Central Business District in Baltimore.”
Several leading voices of the Baltimore business community welcomed the news Tuesday. Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Donald C. Fry said his group called on “local developers or investors who understand Baltimore’s heritage, diversity and current needs” to rebuild Harborplace since the market came under control.
“It’s great news that what was once Baltimore’s international calling card will come out of lengthy judicial scrutiny and could once again become an anchor in the city center and a center of activity for residents and visitors,” Fry said in a statement.
This is a story that is still evolving.
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Apila contributed to this article.
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