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Real Estate Weekly – 9/2/11: Emergency housing website available

Financing for pinched hotel owners

Choice Hotels International Inc. of Silver Spring, one of the world’s largest hotel franchisors, said a new partnership it has established with Access Point Financial Inc. will provide financing to qualified franchisees of major hotel brands. The first fruits of the relationship will concentrate on providing financing to owners of Sleep Inn hotels for renovation projects to keep their properties competitive. Choice Hotels is the first hospitality franchisor to team up with Access Point Financial and negotiate a formal finance program. Access Point Financial, of Greenwich, Conn., is a full-service lending and advisory platform focused on the hospitality industry.

Emergency housing website available

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development is encouraging property owners around the state to list their available rental units on www.mdhousingsearch.org, a bilingual housing locator website and call center to match property owners and prospective renters. The website allows renters to quickly locate appropriate properties for their needs, reducing casual inquiries and saving property owners time and money. In the event of a disaster, the site will be widely promoted, and state and local agencies will use the service to find housing for displaced families.

Large warehouse in North East acquired

Weeks Robinson Properties of Atlanta, a private real estate investment and development company that acquires and develops industrial properties of institutional quality, purchased Trade Center@95, a 600,000-square-foot warehouse and 32 acres of vacant land on Route 40 in North East for about $21 million. The site can be expanded to 1.2 million square feet, said CEO Forrest Robinson. The company is marketing the building to potential logistics tenants, and has seen interest from multiple prospects, Robinson said WR recently raised $150 million in equity to take advantage of opportunities within the depressed real estate market.

BBB: Beware of rogue contractors

The Better Business Bureau | Greater Maryland is cautioning Maryland residents to anticipate a spike in scams by door-to-door “rogue contractors” who solicit home repair business following an event such as Hurricane Irene. The BBB said it and government agencies frequently receive a high volume of reports of post-disaster rip-offs that come and go following violent weather. Although it may take a while to get service from licensed contractors, “if you use a rogue, unlicensed contractor, you forfeit significant protections under Maryland state law including bonding and insurance coverage,” the BBB warned.

Hotel REIT to repurchase stock

LaSalle Hotel Properties of Bethesda announced that its Board of Trustees has authorized a share repurchase program to acquire up to $100 million of the company’s common stock. LaSalle Hotel Properties, a real estate investment trust, owns 35 upscale full-service hotels, totaling more than 8,700 guest rooms in 13 markets in nine states and the District of Columbia. The company focuses on owning, redeveloping and repositioning hotels located in urban, resort and convention markets.

Randallstown Walmart gets underway

Public officials and business representatives turned out Tuesday at the Liberty Plaza shopping center in Randallstown, as long-vacant buildings were demolished to make way for a new Walmart Supercenter. The 160,000-square-foot store, which is scheduled to open in fall 2012, will bring 350 new jobs to Randallstown. It will include a full grocery, bakery, deli, pharmacy and outdoor living department. The new building will replace a strip of long-vacant stores at the rear of the shopping center at Liberty and Brenbrook roads. “Walmart’s confidence in Randallstown will help spur other national stores and restaurants to take a fresh look at the Liberty Road corridor as a great place to do business,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who attended the ceremony.

Development OK’d for 2 West Side sites

The Baltimore Development Corp. said Wednesday it received Board of Estimates approval for two land disposition agreements that will bring separate development projects to areas of Pennsylvania Avenue and Pigtown. In the former, Sphinx Club Complex LLC will acquire five contiguous properties in the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue for a mixed-use project that will include a Negro Baseball League museum and a business incubator. In Pigtown, the city will sell five vacant properties in the 900 block of Washington Boulevard to Historic Pigtown Development II LLC. Developers Neil Katz and Jeffrey Gould plan to build residential units initially and eventually erect a mixed-use retail/residential project.

WRIT buys Olney retail center for $58M

Washington Real Estate Investment Trust of Rockville said it acquired Olney Village Center, a 199,000-square-foot shopping center in Olney, for $58 million. Olney Village Center, anchored by Shoppers Food Warehouse, is 98.7 percent leased to 32 tenants, including national retailers T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods and SunTrust Bank. The property was built in 1979 and renovated in 2003. WRIT assumed a $22.6 million mortgage bearing interest at 6.37 percent per year and maturing in 2023, and funded the remaining $35.4 million with available cash and its line of credit. WRIT is a real estate investment trust that invests in income-producing properties in the Greater Washington metro region.

Construction starts on Choice Hotels HQ

Representatives of Choice Hotels International Inc. and Foulger-Pratt Cos., together with community leaders and state and local officials, were on hand Wednesday at a construction site in Rockville for the groundbreaking of the new Choice Hotels headquarters building. When it is completed in about two years, more than 400 Choice Hotels employees will move to the new 190,907-square-foot, Class A office building. The building, which is being built to LEED Platinum certification standards, will be developed, constructed, owned and managed by the Rockville-based Foulger-Pratt. Choice Hotels has been based in Silver Spring since 1968, where the lease on its current headquarters building expires in 2013.

College of Liberal Arts building opens at Towson University

Towson University in Baltimore County held formal opening ceremonies Tuesday at the site of the College of Liberal Arts structure on the university’s York Road campus. The College of Liberal Arts facility occupies the former site of the Lida Lee Tall building and is the university’s first entirely new academic structure to be built in 30 years. Site preparation, planning, design and construction of the $148 million project took seven years to complete. The building is LEED silver certified.

Cirdan Group opens Columbia office

Cirdan Group Inc. of Timonium, a project management consulting firm, announced the opening of its second facility in Columbia. The new office will be the principal location for Cirdan Group’s Election Services practice and Business Development operations, along with other customer support activities. The facility features a state-of-the-art training area and will accommodate both field-deployed consultants as well as visiting partners. “Our new offices will provide increased services, capacity, and easy access for our strategic customers in the mid-Atlantic region,” said Joanne Vatz, Cirdan Group CEO. “We will continue to run our corporate and business operations from the current site in Timonium.”

Local companies purchase Solo Cup site

Greenberg Gibbons and Vanguard Equities Inc. announced that they have purchased the former Solo Cup manufacturing site in Owings Mills. The local development companies said they will seek approval to redevelop the vacant 52-acre property into an upscale retail destination and gathering place for the community. They said they will unveil a concept plan for the site to the public in mid-October. A representative of the buyers said Solo Cup Co. was the seller. Other details of the purchase, such as financial terms, will not be disclosed at this time, the spokesperson said. Greenberg Gibbons is headquartered in Owings Mills, less than a mile from the Solo Cup site. Vanguard Equities is based in Baltimore.

KLNB selected to find sites for Hurricane Grill & Wings

KLNB Retail has been selected as the exclusive leasing broker for the regional franchise holder of Hurricane Grill & Wings, a Florida-based fast-casual restaurant that is looking to identify up to 40 new locations within the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia trade areas. Keith Barnett and Ryan Wilner, principals for KLNB Retail, will oversee the site selection and leasing program for Chitowngus LLC, the franchise entity owned by the father and son team of Glenn and Eric Gustafsson. Each restaurant contains approximately 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of space and employs nearly 50 full and part-time workers. Hurricane Grill & Wings began in Fort Pierce, Fla., in 1995, and has since expanded to nearly 50 locations throughout Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

LEASES

Merritt Properties LLC reported the following lease transaction:

Ship Rite LLC, a freight forwarding company, leased 1,500 square feet of space at 3601 Commerce Drive, Suite 101, in Halethorpe. Jamie Campbell, Liz Tarran-Jones, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw handled the transaction on behalf of Merritt Properties.