City approves additional funds to clean up vacant lots

Cushman & Wakefield this week said it had recently sold a property at 7600 Assateague Drive, in the Maryland Wholesale Food Center in Jessup.

The 775,000-square-foot, 60-acre property, formerly owned by Giant Food of Landover, was bought by a joint venture consisting of New York Life representing unnamed institutional investors, and Mosaic Realty Partners. The facility is near Interstate 95.

Cris Abramson, Brian Kruger, Nick Signor, Michael Elardo, Jared Ross and Michael Kimmel of Cushman & Wakefield helped to broker the deal. The sale price was not disclosed.

“This facility is the single largest warehouse available today in the state of Maryland and is in excellent condition. This is a signature assignment and we have been very encouraged with the level of interest in the property,” Elardo said.

The site has a main building with 728,073 square feet of space and loading docks on three sides. It also has several ancillary buildings, surface space for 500 truck trailers and about 500 car-parking spaces. Leasing is currently open.

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The local chapter of the networking group, CREW, or Commercial Real Estate Women, will hold a happy hour on May 15 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Natty Boh Tower in Canton to help raise money for student outreach and scholarships for budding real estate professionals in college.

Tickets for the event are $30 for CREW members and $40 for non-members. Fare includes nibbles, wine and, of course, Boh.

One of the main sponsors of the evening is the Merrick School of Real Estate & Economic Development at the University of Baltimore.

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The state is set to receive about $11 million in low-income rental assistance funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials said this week.

The funds will be presented to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development through HUD’s Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program. The program provides rental assistance to low-income individuals with disabilities, most of whom are at risk of becoming homeless.

The award will pay for five years of rental assistance for 150 units, state officials said this week.

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This week, a group of six Baltimore community associations filed suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court against a Texas-based property owner, Scott Wizig, whose vacant, blighted properties have racked up several housing code violation notices and fines from the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development and caused an awful nuisance in their neighborhoods.

Seeking $8 million in damages for the negative effects of 57 cited derelict properties, attorneys from the Community Law Center said they hope the absentee owner will show up in court this spring to explain why he purchased the vacant properties mostly from the city tax sale and let them remain in disrepair.

The community associations backing the suit are Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello Community Corp., Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations, Mount Clare Community Council, Carrollton Ridge Community Association, Operation ReachOut SouthWest and Greater Greenmount Community Association.

“The lawsuit challenges the practice of purchasing vacant properties at tax sale and leaving them for dead with unaddressed city code violations,” said Kristine Dunkerton, executive director of the Community Law Center. “If you own a property, you cannot allow your property to be a nuisance to the neighborhood, much less dozens and dozens of properties across multiple neighborhoods.”

Lawyers from Venable LLP are serving as pro bono co-counsel with the Community Justice Clinic of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Dunkerton said Wednesday that the city’s tight resources prevented it from going after Wizig for the vacant properties. She said the lawsuit’s multiple attorneys were awaiting Wizig to be served with the lawsuit and then receiving his reply. Community members, however, are getting more impatient.

“Our communities are plagued by the drug use, trash, rats, and other daily dangers that vacant properties present,” lamented Constance Fowler, president of Carrollton Ridge Community Association.

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The city’s Board of Estimates this week voted to spend another $200,000 in public funds on the seemingly never-ending task of clearing and cleaning some of the multitudes of vacant lots around Baltimore.

The spending panel voted to approve renewal of the cleanup contract originally let to Evergreen Landscape & Design Corp. for mowing and debris removal for vacant lots and abandoned properties.

The company was first hired in June 2011 under a $779,600 contract for the dirty work. That contract was renewed last May for an additional $200,000.

The latest renewal — and the extra $200,000 — will cover June 8, 2013, through June 7, 2014, for a grand total of $1,197,600 in cleanup costs for the vacant and abandoned properties.

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TIDBITS: Terry Burns, senior associate with Mahan Rykiel Associates, is the first winner of the firm’s in-house scholarship called the Founder’s Travel Fund. Burns will receive a stipend and a paid week off to study the evolution of the Prairie School style of landscape design in trips to Chicago, New York and Washington. Catherine Mahan, the retired president and founder of the firm, presented the award this past week … A “Marketplace on Main” will commence in Bel Air beginning May 8, sponsored by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, the town of Bel Air and the Mill of Bel Air. The weekly market will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will feature local growers and producers, artists from the Harford Artists Gallery, entertainment and menu items from the Main Street Tower. It will be located on the parking lot across from the Harford County Courthouse on Main Street … The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors just inked a new lease with Merritt Properties for office space at 1954 Greenspring Drive in Timonium. Merritt’s Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs brokered the deal … The Bench restaurant recently opened at the Marriott Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg. The eatery features regional American cuisine created by Executive Chef Aaron Tootill, served in a swank dining room or at a lakeside patio … Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver is set to attend the grand opening of the 588-unit, newly renamed Northwest Crossing Apartments in Randallstown this week. The development’s owner, Morgan Properties, recently pumped $10 million into the property in a partnership with private equity firm Core Properties … Andrew Evans, former chef and owner of the fancy white-table-cloth Inn at Easton is going country. He recently leased a 2,282-square-foot space in the Magothy Beach Plaza to open The BBQ Joint. Evans honed his smokin’ good pit-cooking skills after serving as a judge in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition one year in Tennessee. He also owns a BBQ Joint in Easton. The Anne Arundel County joint is expected to open in early summer and will feature a mess of finger-licking styles: Texas, St. Louis, Memphis and the Carolinas … The Arett Sales Corp. just leased 10,200 square feet of space at 7484 Candlewood Road in Hanover for its Christmas tree and lighting sales operation. Merritt Properties’ Jamie Campbell, Liz Tarran-Jones, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw brokered the deal.

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