Baltimore Westside Superblock Developers Granted 3rd Extension Despite Ignoring Preservation Agreement

Baltimore Brew‘s  reports that the City BOE has granted a four month extension to the controversial West Side project, allowing more time to complete their financing and search for tenants, after M.J. Brodie  of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) stated headway was being made.  On the other hand it appears they ignored Johns Hopkins, executive director of the historic preservation group, Baltimore Heritage who says the “Superblock” developers have not been honoring an agreement on historic preservation.

Considering the recent concerns over the current condition of The Senator Theatre, the portion of the article regarding the planned restoration of Read’s Drug Store, the site of a 1955 Civil Rights sit-in, may be most interesting – and worrisome:

Separately, the city said it would proceed with installing a temporary roof on the Read’s building, whose interior timber framing has partially collapsed from years of water leakage.

The roof, however, is not expected to be installed until late spring or early summer, leading CHAP commissioner Larry Gibson to wonder whether the building itself might fall down. “Demolition by neglect is a specialty in this city,” he said.

An engineering consultant said that was unlikely because the steel beams and exterior masonry walls appeared to be in satisfactory condition. The temporary roof on the city-owned building would cost about $550,000.

Although the engineering consultant makes it sound like demolition is unlikely, it’s hard to ignore that the neglect led to Read’s roof collapse and it’s much more costly to reconstruct as opposed to preventative maintenance/repairs, especially when you’re talking about proper restoration to an historic structure.

The Senator Theatre, Dec. 12, 2011So, while it’s hoped that the City and The Senator’s current operators will see the wisdom of making an honest and visible effort to reverse the effects of deferred maintenance, once again, I encourage those who understand the significance of the internationally recognized Senator Theatre, the last historic, operational movie house in Baltimore City, to sign this online petition:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/help-the-senator-theatre/

Let those in control that it’s not just a handful of “historic theatre nuts” (or “sore losers” as some of us have been labeled) who are disappointed with the year-long decline which can no longer be ignored. Former mayor/governor/state comptroller understood the importance of history and our historic buildings. Now the rest of us need to stand up, for the Senator and for Baltimore’s historic Westside.

-Tom Harris

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Senator Theatre RFP: Kiefaber defies hush clause. Joins FOTS in “BDC is rife with fraud & collusion”

BDC

Fraud, Collusion, Deceit

Former Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber defies City Hall’s hush clause

Joins Friends of The Senator to declare BDC is rife with fraud and collusion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Baltimore, MD
July 16th, 2010

Friends of The Senator (FOTS) announced today that the 2100+ member advocacy group has denounced the Baltimore Development Corporation’s (BDC) manipulation of The Senator Theatre’s acquisition at auction on behalf of the City, and its subsequent RFP plan for the Senator Theatre, as a corrupt process rife throughout with collusion, fraud, and deceit.

The advocacy group has repeatedly implored Mayor Rawlings-Blake to investigate the allegations, based on the results of the FOTS investigative research, provided to her and her staff…

Complete text at http://www.thepeoplestheatre.us/news.html

BDC practices attract some scrutiny

For those who aren’t familiar, the Baltimore Development Corporation (also known as the BDC), has been given the job by Baltimore City government to handle the Request For Proposals (RFP) process in the case of The Senator Theatre.
That is, once the city’s winning bid – from their own foreclosure auction – has been ratified. This is expected to happen this coming Friday, September 18, 2009 (barring any objections filed over the auction’s validity).

Apparently, BDC actions (recent and past) have some folks questioning their operations.

“Had we known the City planned to make this land available to any bidder, this would clearly and dramatically affect our appraisal of the location, as it would have for other potential bidders.” [John Cordish of Cordish Co.]

When the city awards land to a private developer it usually goes through a competitive bid process. Frank, the deputy mayor, acknowledged that this deal was “unusual.”

The deal included a payout of at least $3 million from BCEG to Cormony as an incentive for the development firm to bow out of its project [a $250 million “sportsplex”], according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

  • City Gave No-Bid Contract For Slots Site Work – WJZ TV
    Instead of advertising the work, the [BDC] approached a handful of companies and asked them to provide prices to knock down the Maryland Chemical Building on Russell Street…
    [To] pave the way for a proposed $212 million casino near M&T Bank Stadium.

  • City awarded demolition contract at proposed slots site without public bidding – Baltimore Sun
    City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who sits on the five-member Board of Estimates panel that approves city contracts, says she believes… “An open process allows for more competitiveness and allows for the City of Baltimore to get better service at the best price.”

    Arnold Jolivet, the managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, criticized the process – even though the… demolition was awarded to an African-American owned firm that he called “well qualified.”

  • BDC cancels demolition contract – Baltimore Sun
    [M. J. “Jay”]Brodie said he consulted with some of his BDC colleagues who believed that the quasi-governmental agency had the authority to go outside the regular city bidding process with demolition contracts, as it does for other types of contracts. “I didn’t question that,” he said. “I don’t know to what degree they checked.”

    Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon announced Tuesday that BDC would no longer award demolition contracts.

Those concerned for the future well-being of The Senator Theatre may well consider these reasons to pay extra attention to the BDC’s handling of theatre’s situation.