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Baltimore's Harborplace sold to MCB Real Estate

Jan 11, 2024

MCB Real Estate has received approval to buy Harborplace, the beleaguered Baltimore landmark that has languished in court-ordered receivership for more than three years.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge John S. Nugent authorized the sale late last week. The deal is expected to close early next year and an affiliate of P. David Bramble's MCB will assume much of the outstanding $76 million Harborplace loan balance, court papers obtained Tuesday morning by the Baltimore Business Journal showed.

The move will kick off a reinvention of the landmark that today is a sad version of its original form with a nearly 75% vacancy rate despite its prime location. Bramble this year pledged to seek public input for that task, which will help to jumpstart business and restock the abundant vacant space at the Light and Pratt street pavilions.

"At its best, Harborplace is the beating heart of Baltimore," Bramble said, in a statement Tuesday. "Baltimore is my home and like so many I have cherished childhood memories of Harborplace where I celebrated special occasions with my family. We will reimagine this underutilized asset to create unique value for all of our communities.

"People like to count Baltimore out," Bramble added. "This project will show what we, as a city, are capable of and showcase the best of Baltimore for our own families, the region and the world."

The papers detailed that Harborplace is poised to be sold to MCB HP Baltimore LLC, which will assume an undetermined amount of the outstanding debt and begin the redevelopment of the site. The outstanding loan amount has been "modified" over the past three years based on maintenance and improvements at the property since receivership started in late May 2019, the papers stated.

Ian Lagowitz, appointed by the Circuit Court in May 2019 as receiver for the Inner Harbor property that was in foreclosure, was unavailable for comment.

An attorney for Lagowitz said the deal will end the receivership for the New Jersey-based receiver.

"We are pleased to confirm that, after years of work, the Circuit Court of Baltimore City has granted the order authorizing the sale of Harborplace to MCB HP Baltimore LLC, and we look forward to closing in the new year," said Randall Hagen, in an email.

The order signed by Nugent capped a more than three-year climb out of receivership for Harborplace, which opened in 1980 by developer James Rouse as a waterfront attraction stocked with local vendors and restaurants. The two-story, green-roofed glass pavilions quickly became a huge success that drew tens of thousands of visitors to the Inner Harbor each year and landed Baltimore and Rouse on the cover of Time magazine in 1981 for its urban renaissance.

Today, though, the property is nearly totally vacant. Hooters is the only tenant in the Light Street pavilion and Cheesecake Factory is the anchor of the Pratt Street pavilion, which has a handful of other tenants. Its former owner, New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., defaulted on its loan in March 2019.

MCB moved to acquire Harborplace out of receivership. Mayor Brandon Scott announced the firm had been granted the rights to negotiate a private deal in April. A "motion to sell" was filed in Circuit Court in September as negotiations and details of the acquisition were in full-tilt with the court, Lagowitz and MCB officials.

Court papers filed this fall showed that a June appraisal of Harborplace found the property was assessed at $45.8 million, well below the $98.5 million paid in 2012 for Harborplace by Ashkenazy. The motion to sell also listed Harborplace's current liquidation value at $27.5 million.

This story will be updated.

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