Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

BDC gets two bids for City Center site

Two developers are seeking the rights to build a residential and retail complex on a prime half-acre site downtown once planned to hold an $80 million dual Hyatt-brand hotel project known as City Center.

The Baltimore Development Corp. said Wednesday that unsolicited proposals had been received, just as the group opened general bidding for the site by issuing a request for proposals with an Aug. 31 deadline.

“We already have some interest,” said M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the BDC. “That’s a good sign.”

Brodie, who would not identify the potential developers or details of their plans, said the two proposals centered on residential projects at the city-owned L-shaped parcel comprised of 26-36 S. Calvert St., wrapping around to 117 Water St. and 110 E. Lombard St.

The parcel is located a block off the waterfront and had been the center of nearly seven years of planning by Pikesville developer Mark Sapperstein, who recently opened McHenry Row in Locust Point.

Sapperstein had hoped to build two Hyatt-brand hotels there, a Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites, with 300 rooms along with a 300-space parking garage, totaling 450,000 square feet.

The BDC’s website said that in February 2009 the group signed a land disposition agreement for the properties with Sapperstein and his partners Benjamin Greenwald and Joseph Haskins for the mixed-use development called Hyatt at City Center.

“He worked very hard and couldn’t make the numbers work,” Brodie said of Sapperstein’s efforts to obtain financing for City Center. “We tried to give him all the time he needed to do it, and we reached the end.”

Sapperstein said Wednesday that he could not obtain financing and had terminated his development rights with the city last month. He said he was unaware that a new RFP had been issued.

“It’s news to me, just like to you,” he said. “The financing market is not there to do a twin hotel project there. I just decided I have so many other projects I’m working on, I would focus on them.”

Among those new projects is the Canton Crossing retail center in Canton, scheduled to break ground this month, Sapperstein said.

The RFP states that the new downtown development will wrap around the Brookshire Suites Hotel located at Calvert and Lombard streets.

“The … parcels are a total of approximately 200,000 sq. ft of building area, and .52 acres of total land area,” the RFP states, adding that the site is in the central business district’s urban renewal area.

Brodie said the new development would add to the residential density downtown, a new focus of the BDC and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, a nonprofit business group.

“That’s where I think the future is,” Brodie said. “But the RFP will give everybody a chance to submit ideas. The apartment demand is quite real, so that’s what we see developers responding to. That’s a healthy sign.”

J. Kirby Fowler Jr., president of the partnership, agreed.

Officials at the partnership last year urged the BDC to pressure Sapperstein to move on the project or release the land development rights.

“In our recent strategic plan, we identified that site as one of the offerings by the city to be revisited,” Fowler said. “After some months of negotiation, we’re delighted the city has reissued the RFP and are hopeful there will be a series of creative developers large and small submitting plans.”