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City considering tax breaks for market-rate apartment development

Legislation creating another set of city tax breaks for developers of “high performance,” market-rate apartments cleared a Baltimore City Council committee in a hearing Thursday.

The bill allows for a 15-year property tax break on developments of 50 or more luxury-type units in several city communities including downtown, Poppleton, West Cold Spring Lane, Reservoir Hill, a portion of Bel Air Road and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. There is a 100 percent break in the first two years, decreasing incrementally to a low of 20 percent in years 13, 14 and 15, the legislation now scheduled to go before the entire City Council for first reader on Monday states.

The need for the new tax breaks — at a time when leaders have expressed concern, bordering on panic, over the city’s fiscal future in light of lost revenues and federal cuts — is to help motivate building the next hot thing in local real estate: rental units. That is the perspective of Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and developers who testified before the council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee in favor of the proposal, which was introduced recently by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

Courtney Jenkins, an executive with commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, said witnessing the prospect of apartment development in certain areas of in Baltimore “is the most exciting in my career,” citing a plan by an unnamed developer to turn the former site of the News American at 300 E. Pratt St. into a 400-unit apartment development from its present state as a surface parking lot.

“It’s going to be difficult to make this work without viable tax abatements,” Jenkins told the committee. “We’re going to need your help.”

The new tax breaks will join the city’s existing tool box of incentives, payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTS, and tax increment financing, or TIF. The credit availability will expire in December 2017, the bill states.

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NAIOP Maryland is getting national respect.

The 375-member local trade group of developers, owners, investors and commercial and office real estate experts recently received the “2012 National Chapter of the Year” Award from NAIOP at the National NAIOP Chapter Leadership and Legislative Retreat in Washington.

The award was given in recognition of the group’s work in education, community involvement, corporate involvement, government affairs, membership, communications and student and civic activities.

“We are extremely honored to be recognized with this award that values excellence, innovation and leadership in every aspect of the chapter,” said Dianna Wilhelm, president of NAIOP Maryland, in a statement. “This was a total team effort and is a signal of more exciting things to come for our membership.”

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The growing Owings Mills community will gain more gravitas on March 28 when the Baltimore County Public Library will open a new branch at the Metro Centre at Owings Mills.

The development is part of the $30 million County Campus at Metro Centre, a six-story project visible from Interstate 795 that will also hold a new campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, expected to open in late spring.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz will snip the ribbon at the new library branch at 11 a.m.

David S. Brown Enterprises is developing the massive Metro Centre project, which will include retail and apartment units as well as office space. The first apartments are now being leased.

“This will be the first of many celebrations for this new center of community life in Owings Mills. Metro Centre at Owings Mills and the County Campus bring the word partnership to life,” Kamenetz said in a statement. The county’s library and community college partnered in a first-in-Maryland shared facility. The private sector partnered to develop a vibrant center with offices, apartments and retail.”

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San Diego-based Trigild will soon open a new office in Wheaton.

The company is a real estate firm that focuses on property management, receivership-bankruptcy and consulting services. Josh Hall will head the office that is expected to oversee a portfolio of office, retail and multifamily properties in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states.

The office will be located at 11002 Veirs Mill Road and will employ 45 workers. Trigild’s portfolio includes about 15 million square feet of commercial real estate and 3,000 multifamily units in the U.S.

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The University of Baltimore has invited local developer Ed St. John, chairman of St. John Properties, to speak at its Lessons from Legends speakers series on April 4.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the university’s Wright Theater at the UB Student Center. Tickets are $25 each.

Larry Maykrantz, president of St. John Properties and a UB grad, will be the event’s moderator.

TIDBITS: More than 250 gathered to help RE/MAX Advantage Realty open its seventh office, this one in Baltimore. CEO Alex Karavasilis gave tours of the high-tech space at 729 E. Pratt St., near Harbor East. About 75 sales associates will work in the 6,000-square-foot space that has beautiful views of the city and waterfront… Executive Chef Aaron Tootill will soon open a new restaurant at the Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center. The eatery, to be called “The Bench” will feature American cuisine “infused with modern attitude.” Tootill said he has dug deep to craft the menu including using some of his Polish grandmother’s culinary tricks as well as experience as top chef at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center’s Fire & Sage restaurant. The new venture will have roasted yellow pepper and crab soup as a signature dish…New sidewalks will soon be installed on the south side of Sulphur Spring Road between the Arbutus Library and Shelbourne Road in Arbutus. The work will cost $300,000 and will take six weeks…Researchers at Trepp LLC, who specialize in commercial real estate analytics, will soon prepare a national analysis of shopping centers in the U.S. for the International Council of Shopping Centers. The work will include information on about 20,000 shopping centers and will focus on detailed income and expense data.