A month after the city entered into a long-term lease agreement with General Growth Properties (GGP), the company turned around and sold Harborplace to a privately-owned New York real estate firm.
News of the sale to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. – first disclosed today by the Maryland Daily Record – clearly caught the Rawlings-Blake administration off-guard.
Only yesterday did they hear about the sale from Harborplace general manager Christopher Schardt.
Underscoring the importance that is still placed on the aging tourist magnet, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement this afternoon saying she was “absolutely committed” to improving the Inner Harbor pavilions.
Working with the Ashkenazy group, the mayor said, is vital “to continue making progress and to secure Harborplace’s legacy as a source of great pride for the people of Baltimore for years to come.”
Actually, she has little choice.
On September 19, the mayor-controlled Board of Estimates signed an agreement with GGP extending the lease of Harborplace by 33 years, through 2087, in return for “significant capital improvements” to the pavilions.
Did Lease “Sell” the Property?
Securing the lease extension was doubtless a major selling point for GGP, which has been peddling Harborplace without success since 2008.
The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, especially over the lease extension presumably assumed by Ashkenazy.
Under last month’s extension, Baltimore would get a hefty increase in rental revenue from GGP, plus the commitment to make various improvements, including new exterior awnings on the buildings, upgraded exterior lighting, new landscaping, and repairs to concrete surfaces, including the weather-aged Pratt Street pedestrian bridge.
Earlier this year, GGP sold the Village of Cross Keys on Falls Road to Ashkenazy. The Chicago-based mall owner, which underwent Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2009-10, will retain ownership of the Gallery at Pratt and Calvert streets, just north of the waterfront pavilions.