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After years of legal wrangling, Baltimore developer Patrick Turner lost his Westport dream and land in a moment.
Ballard Spahr attorney Timothy F. McCormack, who represented Westport Property Investments, declined to comment after the auction, which drew a crowd of roughly 30 onlookers and members of the press to the steps of Baltimore's Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, despite the morning cold.
"It was an interesting day in real estate," said Vincent DeLorenzo, a Baltimore real estate agent with property in Westport. "That land just went for cheap."
The real estate crash brought those plans to a standstill and the loan came due in 2010. Citigroup agreed to sell Turner the note for $8.5 million, then $7.1 million, but he never found sufficient financing.
Bankruptcy filings staved off two previous auctions, scheduled after Citigroup filed for foreclosure in 2013 and 2014. The company washed its hands of the deal last summer after it transferred the note to Westport Property Investments for an undisclosed sum.
Early talks between Turner's team and Westport Property Investments turned acrimonious, as Turner's team pressed without success for disclosure of the people behind the limited liability company. In November, Judge Robert A. Gordon ruled that Turner had run out of time and dismissed the bankruptcy.
Westport Property Investments filed for foreclosure in December, prompting Wednesday's auction. No other buyer appeared to challenge the group's bid for the land, located along Kloman Street and Waterview Avenue between the light rail line and the Patapsco River's Middle Branch.
Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, said the new owners have not reached out to her group. She said residents hope it will bring jobs to the area.
"We're looking forward to finding out who it is ... what is their vision and how does it work well with us, since we're here," she said. "We just want to know what their intentions are."
Allen said she does not expect any major redevelopment in the near future.
"All this tells us is there's a new owner. There still has to be the market for it," she said.
Loren Duffey, a real estate agent who bought his first investment properties in the area around 2005, said he hopes the new owner will be able to spur broader improvements in the community.
"The neighborhood has definitely seen its ups and downs," he said. "It'd sure be nice if it started going up again."
Pat Turner's Westport land is headed to auction
Jan 13, 2015,
Pat Turner's Westport property sits along 43 acres of the Middle Branch
Kevin LittenReporter- Baltimore Business Journal
The 43 acres of land that was once slated to be developer Patrick Turner's vision for an "Inner Harbor West" is headed to auction on Jan. 28.
A public auction is the last step in the process of transferring the title of the land to a new owner during a foreclosure. It comes after Turner lost a U.S. Bankruptcy Court battle in November to stave off the auction by using a series of legal maneuvers that kept the bankruptcy case going and effectively put the foreclosure on hold.
Much of the action in the bankruptcy case occurred between March and November last year after a scheduled foreclosure auction was canceled because of a last-minute legal filing. A key moment in the case came when the court was told the bank that originally owned the $30 million loan Turner defaulted on in 2012 had sold the note to a company to an entity called Westport Property Investments LLC.
The owner or owners of that entity have shielded themselves from being identified. Ballard Spahr LP is named as the company's resident agent. Speculation in the real estate community has swirled ever since the company emerged, especially because the City Council approved a $160 million tax-increment financing plan to build infrastructure on the site six years ago.
In a typical foreclosure auction, whoever owns the loan on the property usually wins the auction because it's unlikely that an outside investor would bid more than the value of the note. But the auction is an opportunity for Turner or another investor to make one last play on the property; Turner's attorneys claimed they had found an investor when the case was dismissed in November.
If Westport Property Investments wins the auction and gains title to the property in the foreclosure process, it would mean yet another South Baltimore acquisition for a limited liability corporation. Port Covington lies just across the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, connected by an abandoned decrepit railroad bridge. The peninsula has seen $90 million in investments in the last year, resulting in 128 acres of land acquisitions.
The Westport auction is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 28 on the steps of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse at 100 N. Calvert St. The case is captioned as Scott W. Foley, et. al., Substitute Trustees v. Inner Harbor West LLC and Inner Harbor West II LLC.
The auction is being handled by Alex Cooper Auctions Inc., where officials declined to comment for this story. Turner could not be reached for comment.
Kevin Litten covers Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development.
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