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Charlie Hustle’s Perlman Place Dreams to Get Demolished

April 16, 2010

The only one of Baltimore developer Charles Jeffries’ perplexing array of ideas for reviving Baltimore that ever saw hammer meet nail was Perlman Place, an intact block of rowhouses off of East North Avenue. Though his plans touted redevelopment of the entire block, only a handful got fixed up, and they resulted in a 1999 court judgment against Jeffries in favor of three women who say he bilked them on the deal.

Now, the Baltimore Sun reports, Perlman Place will be demolished by the city, whose investigators determined that Jeffries “falsified documents and never had the funds to complete” his plans for the block.

Who could have foreseen it would end this way? Well, anyone who read City Paper‘s extensive coverage of Jeffries’ bizarre—and in some cases, damaging—ambitions over the years. Here’s a re-cap of articles CP published from 1999 to 2005.

In 1999, then-staff writer Michael Anft wrote a cover feature, “Shell Game,” (not yet available online) that laid out in glaring detail Jeffries’ schemes and scams at Perlman Place. It was followed up with a 2000 piece by The Nose, reporting that a judge declined to jail Jeffries, who owned a stately house in Guilford, for failing to pay even a portion of the outstanding $350,000 judgment to the three women he owed—though the judge did call his Perlman Place misdeeds “a particularly disturbing scheme.”

In 2002, Jeffries won Perlman Place designation as a city historic district, making it available for tax credits, and he successfully applied to have the same designation for 110 blocks of East Baltimore. Meanwhile, he also obtained a lease from the city for the historic Lake Clifton Valve House and emerged as an anonymous “donor’s representative” on a deal, which was later scrapped, with University of Baltimore over Mount Vernon’s historic Winans mansion.

With 2003 came another lawsuit for Jeffries, brought by a firm that helped him come up with the historic-district application for East Baltimore. He also announced plans for the $450 million development of an East Baltimore campus for something he and his partners—which included Baltimore Cable Access Corp., the Arena Players, and another developer, Jerry Lyma of Justin Development Corp.—called the “Media Arts Network School.” That never happened.

Next up, in 2004, was Jeffries’ plan for a trolley system on North Avenue, ostensibly to serve the media-school development—the costs of which had grown to $600 million and which, Jeffries claimed, was to be affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, though that was news to Hopkins.

Finally, in 2005, the city cancelled its Lake Clifton Valve House lease with Jeffries. He’d planned to turn the historic, dilapidated structure into the headquarters of his development firm, Center Development Corp. But his intricate, ambitious plans to restore it with loving care ended without any work being done at all.

With the impending demolition of Perlman Place, and the city’s findings of Jeffries’ questionable practices, he continues to earn his nickname: Charlie Hustle.

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