Baltimore Clayworks Rejects Sale-Leaseback Offer for its Gallery Building

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Photo via Mount Washington Village Association

The trustees of Baltimore Clayworks have turned down a purchase offer from a businessman who wants to help the art organization retain at least one of its two buildings in Mount Washington.

Real estate professional Sid Emmer, of Sidney Emmer Builders, said this week that he offered to pay $800,000 to purchase Clayworks’ Gallery building at 5707 Smith Avenue, for continued use by the nonprofit group.

Emmer said his plan was to buy the gallery building and lease it back to Clayworks, which would be able to use the proceeds from the sale to help pay off its debts. The lease rate would be $1 a year for two years.

Clayworks board members announced earlier this year that they planned to sell off one or both of their Mount Washington buildings because the organization was having financial problems. The other building is located across the street at 5706 Smith Avenue.

Last month, the board members said they had received a letter of intent from a nonprofit group that wants to buy both buildings and they expected that offer to be converted into a contract of sale. They later told state legislators the sale price was $3.7 million, but didn’t identify the potential buyer.

A separate group of Clayworks advocates, concerned about the potential sale, formed an organization called the Clayworks Community Campaign to find other ways to address the organization’s financial problems besides selling off all of its real estate. Emmer was working with that group.

Emmer said Thursday that his broker received a message from Clayworks’ real estate agent that his offer was not going to be accepted or countered. He said the message was that “the seller has declined the offer [for 5707] and it’s not in a position to entertain a counteroffer at this time.”

Emmer said he was disappointed his offer was rejected, with no chance for a counter. He said he knew there was a possible offer for both properties. But he said he also knew the two sides were about to begin a mediation period with Maryland Nonprofits Inc. to discuss ways to address Claywork’s financial problems.

The “dialogue” was proposed by state Del. Sandy Rosenberg at a Capital Budget Subcommittee hearing on Clayworks’ situation on May 2. Rosenberg made his suggestion after more than 800 people signed a petition seeking to block the sale of both buildings.

“It seems strange,” Emmer said. “If you are going to mediation, shouldn’t you have all your offers on the table?”

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  1. Emmer’s offer was a lifesaving gift, and the fact that the board rejected it proves that they do not have the best interest of Baltimore Clayworks as their goal. We in the BCW community are outraged that this offer, which would have greatly lessened the debt to a manageable level, buying time to fundraise and consolidate, was rejected by the board. The board are traitors to Baltimore Clayworks, the organization they were entrusted to nourish. They should be stripped of their power and a new board , one that truly loves and supports BCW, should replace these scoundrels

  2. I do hope the trustees will continue with the facilitated dialog with their community members, as proposed by Del Rosenberg. The actions by this current administration do not seem to be in sync with the Mission and Core Values of our internationally renowned organization. Although they do not seem interested in dialog at all, perhaps facilitated dialog will help everyone, on all sides, get back on track – and together, focused on the same understanding of our Mission and Core Values.

  3. Thanks for reporting on this Ed! This offer is exciting news. Life is about possibilities and options, and I’m extremely distressed that the Clayworks board is so myopic. Spread the word — there are viable options.

  4. “Lifesaving gifts” don’t typically come with the high likelihood of financial penalties and loss of the organization’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. I guess that’s not something you, Mr. Emmer, the petition leadership, or its lawyer either knew, thought, or cared about.

    What this “proves” is the current leadership are interested in understanding and reaching the best possible outcomes – not irrational decisions – seemingly making them the best stewards for the organization.

    • Dear S. Marter-Thanieu, Fred Lazarus, President Emeritus MICA and Delegates MacIntosh, Ali and Rosenberg would question your position. Step back from taking sides & try to understand that the BCI’s leadership’s strategy is what is being questioned. There is risk in selling first. Figuring out how to save Clayworks second. What if it isn’t enough money? No one knows. Lets try not to be so accusatory or demanding people take a side. Ultimately our common goal is a stable future for our beloved institution. As the saying goes “Think before you leap.”

    • How about “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? Heard that one before? How about this? Look familiar?

      “This sale is NOT necessary. Now is the time to bring to light the Board’s hidden agenda. Why is this Board dismissing their community’s expertise and funding? Who is purchasing the properties? Is the sale an arms-length transaction? How will the proceeds of the sale be used? Should this Board oversee this?”

      …it should. YOU wrote it. So, you know what an “arms-length transaction” is? If so – THEN YOU SHOULD BLOODY WELL KNOW THAT THE SALE TO SID EMMER IS NOT ONE. Telling others to not take sides when you have clearly done so – amazing. Take your vapid, hypocritical, name-dropping, pathetic attempt to seem intelligent and go sell crazy somewhere else.

  5. Thank you Ed for covering this story. What could have been a collaborative effort by the Board, staff, artists, students, outreach participants, neighbors and others touched by Baltimore Clayworks, to develop a plan for Baltimore Claywork’s future, has instead taken on a destructive tack with members taking sides and lobbing accusations at each other. I wonder if you could find something of Baltimore Clayworks to write about that would remind us all of why it has been such a successful community arts center. Turn on the lights again. It’s not too late to start talking and planning. Yet. Thank you Ann Geddes

  6. So Smarter than yeu thinks he can berate the Community? And get personal and ugly and rude? Does he really believe we aren’t smart enough to see through him? How arrogant! What does he know about Mr Emmer’s offer? He, with his narrow, no actually with his lack of vision of what is good for our institution, and the board he is misleading did not even have the curiosity to look into the offer, let alone try and negotiate it. What a waste. Blind leading the blind. By the way, these nicknames you hide behind? They are like you: idiotic and soooo transparent. Make better use of your time. Collect the springboard dues. Students are laughing at your managerial skills. And leadership. How sad.

  7. So “smarter than us” thinks he can berate the community and students and get personal and ugly and rude? What does he and the board he is misleading know of the Emmer offer? Did they even have the curiosity to consider it? Did they even try and negotiate? No, they chose to follow their dark and unexplained path to financial suicide without due diligence or care for an institution they obviously don’t love. Their actions directly point at their incompetence, their narrow mindedness, and their insecure arrogance at letting others help them. Blind leading the blind. So sad.

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