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Real Estate Weekly: 4/5/13

Harris Teeter supermarket opens in Ellicott City

Harris Teeter Inc.’s decision to open a store in Ellicott City, at Greenberg Gibbons’ Towne Square at Turf Valley shopping center drew praise from Howard County officials. The 48,000-square-foot upermarket, Harris Teeter’s third store in Howard County, opened to the public on Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Harris Teeter is the first of several planned spring and summer openings for retailers and restaurants in the new 108,000 square-foot shopping center. “Harris Teeter is known for its quality foods, exceptional customer service and its community commitment,” said County Executive Ken Ulman. “I can’t think of a more perfect location for Harris Teeter. We welcome them to Ellicott City.”

Mullan Contracting awarded renovation of auto dealership

The Mullan Contracting Co., of Lutherville, has won a contract to renovate a 22,000-square-foot building recently acquired by the Norris Automotive Group. Contained within a four-acre site at 8525 Baltimore National Pike, in the Ellicott City sub-market of Howard County, the project was acquired from the Miller Brothers family late last year, to reposition the cluster of buildings and acreage into a high-end automotive dealership. The location was closed in 2008 when the Ford Motor Co. consolidated its network of dealers. Mullan will oversee a comprehensive interior renovation of the building, including an automotive showroom, sales offices, receptionist area, multiple service bays, repair facilities, a parts room and storage space. The renovation also includes the modernization and improvement of the project’s HVAC systems, lighting and electrical packages and finish work including painting and carpeting. Penney Design Group is the architect and Comprehensive Structural Solutions is performing structural engineering work on the building.

Wilmot Modular Structures wins awards from Modular Building Institute

The Modular Building Institute presented White Marsh-based Wilmot Modular Structures with two awards at its recent 30th Annual World of Modular Conference. Wilmot placed first with its entry of a 6,300-square-foot building installed at the top of Mount Storm in West Virginia. The building’s innovative design includes a steel canopy that protects the building and its occupants from ice shards that routinely form on the overhead electric lines. The second award was given to Wilmot for its website (www.wilmotmodular.com). The Modular Building Institute is an international nonprofit trade association representing the modular construction industry.

Fitness center coming to Towson Commons

LA Fitness is opening a 52,700-square-foot, two-level health and fitness center at Towson Commons in downtown Towson in space that once housed out-of-date movie theatres. From the rotunda entrance at York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, guests will see the LA Fitness space with views to an indoor lap pool and a new featured stair case with glass rails. Windows will be added to the multi-story building’s façade facing York Road. The facility will feature basketball and racquet ball courts, a spin area with stadium levels, an indoor heated lap pool, whirlpool spa and saunas, personal trainers and Kids Klub babysitting. Group fitness classes will include yoga, cycling, mat pilates, kickbox cardio and aqua aerobics.

Hunt Valley Inn will become a Wyndham

Ethika Investments LLC, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company, said an affiliate has purchased the Hunt Valley Inn, located at 245 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley. The purchase price of the property was not disclosed. The affiliate, Laurus Corp., plans to spend $9.5 million to renovate the venerable hotel, which was built in the early 1970s by McCormick & Co., as the spice company moved its offices and plant from the Inner Harbor. Since then it has gone through various ownerships and renovations, and was last branded as a Marriott. Laurus will rebrand the 393-room hotel as part of the Wyndham Grand Collection.

Pierce’s Park designers win ASLA award

Mahan Rykiel Associates, a Baltimore-based landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm, has won an Honor Award from the Maryland and Potomac chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects for its work in designing Pierce’s Park, a waterfront park at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The 1-acre park, located between the Columbus Center and Eastern Avenue, is dedicated to the memory of Baltimore contractor and civic leader Pierce J. Flanigan III. Pierce’s Park was built as a sustainable space that includes indigenous trees and native plantings, sculptures by local artist David Hess, and landscape features that promote play and imagination.

SkyTouch launched by Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels International Inc., of Silver Spring, one of the world’s largest hotel franchise chains, has launched a new division, SkyTouch Technology, to develop and market cloud-based products to help hoteliers improve their efficiency and profitability. The launch coincides with the company’s market introduction of SkyTouch Hotel OS, a new property and rate management system that draws on Choice’s choiceADVANTAGE property management system for handling reservations, guest stays and rates on any device with an Internet connection. Ric Leutwyler, an executive with experience in the hospitality and technology industries, has been named president of the new division.

Dominion seeks to export LNG

Dominion Resources Inc., of Richmond, Va., said it was submitting on Monday a more-then-12,000 page application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal at its existing Cove Point LNG plant in Lusby. The energy company also said it has secured deals with energy customers in Japan and India to buy the LNG that would be produced at the plant in Calvert County. The $3.4 billion facility would take advantage of the natural gas boom associated with the Marcellus shale formation in the mid-Atlantic area. Environmentalists who lost an attempt in court to stop the LNG export terminal are appealing the ruling.

DiamondRock completes dual borrowings

DiamondRock Hospitality Co., of Bethesda, a real estate investment trust that owns premium hotel properties, said it raised $102 million through two lenders. The company obtained a $31 million mortgage loan secured by The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa, with a term of 10 years and a fixed interest rate of 3.96 percent. Also, it obtained a $71 million mortgage loan secured by the Westin San Diego, with a term of 10 years and a fixed interest rate of 3.94 percent. DiamondRock said it will use the proceeds to repay $45 million currently outstanding on its credit facility and fund a portion of its 2013-14 capital expenditures.

Ascend Collection adds Baltimore hotels

Choice Hotels International Inc., of Silver Spring, a hotel franchise chain, said three Baltimore boutique hotels have joined its Ascend Hotel Collection: the 38-room Inn at Henderson’s Wharf, the 66-room Pier 5, and the 80-room Admiral Fell Inn. The trio, all owned and managed by Meyer Jabara Hotels, of Danbury, Conn., are well-established hotels with waterfront locations at the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The Ascend portfolio consists of 80 hotels in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean. Hotels maintain their independent ownerships while gaining access to Choice’s global distribution, sales, marketing and technology network.

Blame spirals over transit center woes

(AP) The Rockville-based contractor that has overseen construction of the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center is blaming Montgomery County officials for problems that have plagued the project. Bryant Foulger, a principal of the Foulger-Pratt Cos., said the county provided incomplete designs and inadequate oversight for building the $112 million bus-and-rail hub, now two years behind schedule. An engineering report found problems with the transit center, including concrete and steel reinforcement that’s insufficiently strong. Three levels must bear the weight of large buses. A county lawyer said Foulger-Pratt is trying to shift blame for defective construction onto the county.

Creig Northrop Team to open fifth office

The Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate, the top-producing real estate team in Long & Foster, will open a new office 1407 York Road in Timonium in mid-April. This is the team’s fifth office in the Baltimore-Washington region, and will serve Baltimore city and county, and Harford and Cecil counties. The Creig Northrop Team has been named the nation’s top producer of residential real estate transactions for 2010 and 2011 by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends Inc., based on closed transaction volume. Chantilly, Va.-based Long & Foster is the largest independent residential real estate company in the United States.

McDaniel to honor developer Leroy Merritt

McDaniel College will rename a building on its Westminster campus in memory of the late Leroy M. Merritt, a Baltimore real estate developer and McDaniel alumnus who died in January 2010. Academic Hall, which houses the departments of education and psychology, as well as graduate and professional studies and student academic support services, will be renamed Merritt Hall at a ceremony on May 4. Merritt founded Merritt Properties, the largest privately held commercial real estate portfolio in the Baltimore-Washington region, as well as Merritt Athletic Clubs. He gave millions of dollars to the college, and helped fund construction of the Merritt Fitness Center, which was dedicated in 2007.

BGE extends gas pipeline replacements

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. announced it will start five new natural gas main upgrade projects in 2013 through Operation Pipeline, a multi-year program to replace hundreds of miles of cast iron and bare steel gas pipes with modern pipes. The new projects will be located in Arbutus, Graceland Park and Howard Park. BGE will also begin new phases of projects in the Catonsville and Glen Burnie communities where related Operation Pipeline projects have previously been initiated. According to BGE, nearly 40 miles of cast iron or bare steel pipelines have been retired since Operation Pipeline began in 2010.

MoCo OKs more funds for troubled transit center

(AP) The Montgomery County Council has approved an additional $7.5 million for construction of the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center, but officials say it will take much more to repair the facility’s structural problems. The new funds approved Tuesday bring the price tag for the rail-and-bus hub to more than $119 million. It was originally estimated to cost $35 million. An engineering report last month found problems with the transit center’s construction. The deficiencies include weak concrete and steel reinforcements that aren’t strong enough. The report said the three-level facility can be repaired.

Choice Hotels opens new headquarters

Choice Hotels International Inc., one of the world’s largest hotel companies, is completing its move from Silver Spring to its new global headquarters in Rockville. The company’s 400-plus headquarter employees will begin work there on Monday. Choice opted for a floor plan that emphasizes open work areas, high technology and connectivity. Several non-conventional meeting spaces are based on the belief that great ideas come from everywhere, not just behind a desk or around a table. Choice Hotels’ office space was designed by Chicago-based VOA Associates. The building at Rockville Town Square was developed by Rockville-based Foulger-Pratt Cos. and designed by WDG Architecture of Washington.

Bechtel to build power plant in Texas

Bechtel Power, of Frederick, the largest power contractor in the United States, said that it has been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Panda Temple II Generating Station, a 758-megawatt, natural gas-fueled, combined-cycle power plant in Temple, Texas, south of Dallas. This is the third power facility to be built by Bechtel and consortium partner Siemens for Panda Power Funds. Bechtel will be responsible for project management, engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning of the Panda Temple II facility. Siemens will provide the power package, including the natural gas and steam turbines and waste heat recovery boilers. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

FRIT acquires shopping center in Conn.

Federal Realty Investment Trust, of Rockville, a real estate investment trust focused on high-quality retail assets, said it has acquired a shopping center on nine acres of land in Darien, Conn. FRIT paid $47.3 million for the property, which sits across from a railroad station where more than 300,000 train riders annually commute to Grand Central Station in Manhattan and other employment hubs. The shopping center, which sits at Exit 10 on Interstate 95, is anchored by a Stop & Shop grocer, a Walgreens drug store and an Equinox health club, and serves one of the most affluent commuter towns in the nation.

Pebblebrook joint venture executes $50 million loan

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, of Bethesda, a lodging real estate investment trust, announced that its joint venture with New York-based Denihan Hospitality Group, which owns six upscale boutique hotels in Manhattan, executed a new, $50 million non-recourse, secured loan with PNC Bank N.A., at a fixed annual interest rate of 3.14 percent. The interest-only loan has a term of five years and is secured by a first mortgage on the 242-room Affinia Dumont, one of the half-dozen hotels included in the joint venture’s package. Pebblebrook entered into the joint venture with Denihan in June 2011, paying $152 million for a 49 percent stake.

PERSONNEL

MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services announced that Justin T. Mullen has been promoted from real estate advisor to senior real estate advisor. Mullen specializes in the sale and leasing of commercial real estate in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, as well as the Annapolis and Bowie markets. In 2012, Mullen completed approximately $13,400,000 in leasing transactions and closed seven property sales. An Annapolis native, Mullen graduated from St. Mary’s High School and holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Virginia.

Cassidy Turley, a national commercial real estate services provider, announced that Luke Allen has joined the firm as vice president, based in the Columbia office. Allen will focus on corporate accounts, serving occupiers of space throughout the immediate region and beyond. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Allen worked for five years for Manekin Corp., where he participated in the development and implementation of $162 million in lease transactions.

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