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It’s not often that an entire row of buildings in downtown Baltimore comes up for sale, but that’s what happened this month when nine properties in the 200 block of Park Avenue went up for auction and triggered a flurry of last-minute bids.
The winning bidder offered $960,000 to acquire the nine buildings at 219 to 237 Park Avenue, beating out 13 other parties that registered for the sale, conducted virtually by A,.J. Billig & Co. Auctioneers. Bidding began online on October 9, with a starting price of $500,000, and ended at 1:05 p.m. today.
So many bids came in during the last half hour that the original end time of 1:00 p.m. was extended to give bidders a chance to submit final offers. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:05 p.m., bids increased from below $700,000, mostly in $10,000 increments, to the top figure of $960,000. There were 35 bids in all, including 12 after 1 p.m.
Partner Charles Billig declined to identify the top bidder but said he expects a contract to be signed by tomorrow and for the sale to be completed within 45 days. He said the auction drew bidders from Connecticut, New York, Virginia and Washington, D. C. as well as Maryland and that the winner was a local buyer.
Billig said he believes the sale drew strong interest because the buildings are in a part of downtown that’s seeing a wide range of redevelopment activity, from proposed apartments in the 400 block of Park Avenue to the Saratoga Lofts in the old St. Alphonsus Hall to the $40 million reconstruction of Lexington Market two blocks away.
“I think there’s a more robust belief that the development that’s been touted for the last 30 years is actually starting to happen,” Billig said. “You have projects like 500 and 520 Park Avenue coming online that present some reality to things that are happening. In this case, there is also the affordable housing project immediately next door on Clay Street and there has obviously been a lot of reporting on what will be happening at Lexington Market. I just think that the actual dollars being spent are occurring now, whereas they had simply been talked about for 30 years before this. There is a better sense of confidence that things are transitioning on the west side of downtown.”
Zoned for commercial use, the three-story buildings up for sale were 219, 221,223-225, 227, 229, 231, 233, 235 and 237 Park Avenue. Because 223 and 225 are on the same deed, there are actually 10 buildings in the package. Seven are at least partially occupied by businesses, including an art gallery, a music studio and stores, while others are available for lease or renovation. Part of the city’s historic Chinatown district, they’re in a federal Opportunity Zone, which provides incentives for certain types of investment, and within the Market Center Historic District.
Billig, who conducted the auction in collaboration with Thornhill Properties, said his company was encouraged that bidders came both from out of town and locally. He said the range and number of bidders helped establish a true market value for buildings on the west side of downtown, as opposed to an auction that draws only a few bidders.
“We were very pleased with the number of folks registered,” he said. “That’s normally one of our main metrics. If we have more than 10 registered bidders, which we did here, the market will establish itself. To have a larger number of competitive bidders – folks who have done their due diligence, looked at the properties, run their analyses …to determine what the property is worth – I think is an excellent representation of market value.”
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