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Good action at auction in Mt. Vernon Historic District

Last week, 27 multi-unit properties in the Mt. Vernon Historic District were auctioned by Alex Cooper Real Estate — an event that included 50 registered bidders and a renewed air of optimism about the market.

The bankruptcy auction, held in Towson at the Alex Cooper office, centered on several apartment houses along Calvert and St. Paul streets, and on other historic streets in center city, many three- and four-story stately brick buildings that hold up to 2,100 square feet of space.

Auctioneer Paul Cooper reported that the buildings that sold went for up to $60,000 per unit with a 25-day close. Some were bought back by lenders. Locations like 10 E. Biddle St. sold for $388,500; 1210 N. Calvert St. for $220,500 and 802-804 Cathedral St. for $630,000.

“The pace of bidding and activity” of the auction rivaled 2005, Cooper reported.

In addition, Cooper said a 24-unit apartment project on Melrose Avenue between York Road and Charles Street was also auctioned last week and attracted 18 registered bidders.

“I see a definite uptick of investors into the marketplace,” he said, of both auctions.

Two days prior to the Mt. Vernon auction, bidders were required to submit bids in writing, and some started as low as $100,000. That paced the sales, Cooper said, at a fast-moving clip.

Overall, it was an example that the investment market is ramping up locally again, Cooper said.

“It was like taking orders at a deli at lunch time,” Cooper said jokingly, of the Mt. Vernon auction.

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A new branch of the upscale BRIO Tuscan Grille opened March 2 at the busy corner of Pratt and Calvert streets, a prime restaurant space that’s been vacant for five years since Legal Seafood closed.

The restaurant’s menu features a variety of Italian fare including soup, salads, pasta, steaks and grilled fish, chicken and lamb and pork chops.

The establishment will serve more than food.

The owners, BRAVO | BRIO Restaurant Group, also feature a local give-back program through fundraising initiatives. Called “Make a Difference Mondays,” the program gives a portion of lunch and dinner dining proceeds on select days to nonprofits.

Located at 100 E. Pratt St., BRIO will partner with Network 2000 and the United Way of Central Maryland’s Women’s Leadership Council this month to kick off the drive.

March 5 and 12 will benefit the work of Network2000 while March 19 and 26 will support the work of United Way of Central Maryland.

“BRIO Tuscan Grille is excited to be a part of the greater Baltimore community, supporting the organizations and causes important to the City and our patrons,” said General Manager Martin Atkins.

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A new fully-integrated commercial property services company that will operate in major markets globally was formed recently with the acquisition of NAI Global by C-III Capital Partners LLC.

NAI Global was the largest network of independent commercial real estate firms worldwide and was covered in the metropolitan marketplace by KLNB LLC, which posted more than $1.2 billion in commercial real estate transactions through its five full-service offices servicing the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia marketplaces in 2011. KLNB employs 77 full-time real estate brokerage professionals.

NAI Global will continue to operate as a separate entity under its current management, but the role of the new C-III will be to explore business development opportunities in strategic locations, including New York, London, Singapore and other primary global business centers. C-III is led by CEO Andrew L. Farkas, who founded and was chairman and CEO of Insignia Financial Group, Inc.

“The addition of C-III to our network of resources allows our firm to deliver an even broader and enhanced range of services, as well as heightened value to our clients, particularly those in the corporate and investment sector,” said Andy Georgelakos, managing partner of KLNB.

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This week, Harford Community College announced that the arena in the Susquehanna Center has been named the APG Federal Credit Union Arena at Harford Community College. When the arena is completed and dedicated in 2013, it will be home to HCC’s Fighting Owls men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams.

The venue holds up to 3,200 fans.

APG Federal Credit Union’s partnership with the community college was worth an annual contribution of just over $50,000 per year over 15 years. That will go for operations at the arena and scholarships for students.

Other fundraising is also going on at the arena. Patrons can donate $100 and name a seat in honor or memory of someone as part of an effort to raise $120,000. Information about the seat-naming opportunities is available from Denise Dregier at 443-412-2428 or ddregier@harford.edu.

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The local culinary wonder, Joe Squared Pizza, and its waterfront landlord, Power Plant Live!, will host a viewing party on Monday in the restaurant on Pratt Street  to celebrate Joe Squared’s debut on the Food Network’s funky foodie show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

It seems the spike-haired host of the show, Guy Fieri, drove his signature convertible to Charm City late last fall and parked it near the restaurant in order to test Joe Squared’s fare of thin sourdough coal-fired pizzas and 17 varieties of risotto. Certainly, the show will feature some sort of a crab theme.

The episode is called “Out of the Box,” and will featuring chef Joe Edwardsen. The party will begin at 9 p.m. and feature menu samples of the food featured in the show.

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The former headquarters for the Maryland Higher Education Commission in Annapolis — vacated several months ago — is now reopened as the Annapolis Offices at Bestgate and the Annapolis Business Accelerator.

Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker attended a grand opening this week at the building located at 839 Bestgate Road, which has been reconfigured to hold private multi-office suites, individual executive offices and meeting and training rooms.

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TIDBITS: Merritt Properties recently inked Assured Information Security Inc. as a new tenant at the bwtech@UMBC Research & Technology Park. The government contractor will occupy 3,631 square feet of space in the Catonsville park … Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen said this week the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval process for signs and minor building improvements in the city’s Historic District has been streamlined. The new process, approved by the commission, limits the number of public hearings necessary during the review process, delegating to the Chief of Historic Preservation responsibility for approving a larger number of applications. All signs will now be reviewed administratively. Minor alterations to non-historic buildings will be approved by staff, along with non-historic doors, windows and landscaping. Anything proposed changes to a structure that require a major addition, including new construction or a proposed major replacement, will still require commission approval … Residents at the Riderwood Retirement Community are making 12 kitchen cabinets in a woodshop for the Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to renovate a house in Silver Spring. The house was destroyed by fire in January 2010. The new family is expected to move in on St. Patrick’s Day.