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Superblock team seeks 6th reprieve

More time, please.

The developer of the Superblock site was granted a 20-year PILOT tax break and an additional six months on its 2007 development agreement with the city in December.

That was the request last week from an Atlanta- and New York-based development team to the Baltimore Development Corp. for a sixth extension of their exclusive land sale and development agreement for the $150 million Superblock project on the city’s West Side.

The request comes about six months after the Baltimore City Council voted to give a $22.1 million tax break to Lexington Square Partners in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. The developer said at the time that it needed the PILOT in order to obtain a $100 million construction loan and other financing.

At the same time, the developers were granted their fifth extension, for six months. It is now set to expire on June 30.

The developers have said in the past they needed the additional time to line up financing to convert the blighted parcel at Lexington, Fayette and Howard streets and Park Avenue into a mixed-use project with apartments, retail, hotel and office space.

BDC President and CEO Brenda McKenzie said Wednesday she received the latest request for the extension last week but was uncertain about the terms.

She also said she was not sure she was open to granting another extension. Officials at the city’s quasi-public development arm have started asking pointed questions, she said.

“We are getting additional information from the developers related to their progress,” McKenzie said, in an emailed statement. “No recommendation at this point.”

Bailey T. Pope, a partner in the Dawson Co., a member of Lexington Square Partners, did not return a call for comment.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has pushed for the Superblock development as a major catalyst for the rebirth of retail and residential life on the West Side, also did not respond to a request for comment.

The extension request is the latest in a long history of stalled progress at the site.

The Lexington Square group first inked the exclusive development agreement with the city in early 2007. At the time, the property was appraised at around $21 million.

However, the project has been stymied from the beginning by the real estate market, the lack of financing and lawsuits and protests over its history and design.

As properties in the Superblock sat vacant or were demolished, the value fell.

In December 2012, city officials agreed to sell the vacant, blighted, nearly four-acre parcel to Lexington Square Partners for $2.8 million and a unique, 20 percent share in future profits if financing was obtained.

During the PILOT debate last fall, developer Harold Dawson Jr. told the City Council he planned to begin the project this year.

City Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee that endorsed the PILOT in the fall following a detailed hearing, said Wednesday the request for another extension is “a setback” to the entire Superblock project.

“It is concerning, of course. We thought they were ready to start,” Stokes said. “This is continuing to stall the progress of development of that part of town … maybe some other developer can jump in now. We’ll see.”

Stokes said he was uncertain if the PILOT would transfer to a new developer if the BDC moves to reopen the request for proposals for the Superblock.

“I have to look into it,” he said.

Under a PILOT, the city substitutes annual real estate taxes due on a property for an established period of time with a negotiated payment. In the Superblock’s case, the time period is 20 years.

The Superblock developers are also eligible to file for state Enterprise Zone tax credits because the area is located in a low-income area, according to census figures.