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Baltimore sells former Palmer House Restaurant building

Baltimore’s spending board approved the sale of the former Palmer House Restaurant and Devine Seafood buildings in downtown’s West Side so they can be converted into mixed-use developments.

The properties, located at 106-110 N. Eutaw St., as well as another property at 416 N. Howard St., were sold for a total of $45,000.  Plans for the buildings include converting the upper levels into apartments, adding commercial space and a restaurant on the lower level.

“It should have 10 to 12 apartments and two or three retail spots. It depends. It might just be one restaurant, it might be a restaurant and a retail (space),” said Adam Hoffman, who purchased the properties with his business partner, Gabriel Bentovim.

At one time the Palmer House Restaurant, which dates back to the 1940s, was one of the finest restaurants in the city. But  the old restaurant may be best remembered for its quirks, such as the celebrity photos that decorated the walls and the tarot card reader who told fortunes after dinner.

Hoffman and Bentovim have been investing in Baltimore in single family homes for more than a decade. A few years ago the pair purchased abandoned buildings at 329 N. Eutaw St. and 319 W. Mulberry St. and redeveloped the buildings as seven apartments and two retail stores.  Hoffman said those renovations resulted in the Baltimore Development Corp. approaching the partners, who are New York-based certified public accountants, about doing more renovations on Eutaw Street.

According to the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-governmental agency released a request for proposal in February 2013 for the properties at 106-108 N. Eutaw St. and 416 N. Howard St. The sole response the corporation received was from Hoffman and Bentovim.

After receiving the response, the Baltimore Development Corp. reached out  to Hoffman and Bentovim about taking over the former Devine Seafood Building, located at 110 N. Eutaw St., next to the 106-108 N. Eutaw St. properties.

“The Devine Seafood building is directly adjacent to the Palmer House, and there was concern from the community that not developing the properties concurrently would discourage additional redevelopment in the area,” Joann Logan, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Development Corp., wrote in an email.

The proposed redevelopment of the Palmer House Restaurant and Devine Seafood buildings will be the initial phase of the project, and renovations are expected to cost $1.9 million. The Howard Street property would be the second phase of renovations and should cost $730,000.

The BDC is anticipating the buildings, which have been vacant for at least a decade, will result in $2.1 million in real property, utility and payroll taxes over 15 years. The project is also expected to create 19 construction jobs and 19 full-time jobs.

Construction on the buildings is expected to begin in August and renovations should take a year to complete, Hoffman said.

Michael Evitts, a spokesman for the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, said his organization was pleased to hear about the spending board approving the purchase, which will result in more development downtown.

“Obviously we’re very happy that an investor with a track record in the  Bromo [Arts and Entertainment District] has come in,” Evitts said.

Hoffman said he doesn’t expect financing of the project to be an issue and said 1st Mariner Bank has provided loans before and is interested in this latest project. He also said developers have the money to start and finish the project.

“Financing and construction money is not a problem, which is the bigger issue most of the time,” Hoffman said.