BALTIMORE -- The court-appointed trustee for the financially troubled Belvedere Hotel has taken the first step toward the sale of the city landmark to a Florida corporation for $5.5 million.

Kenneth F. Davies has asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to approve the sale to Hertz Group Inc., although the trustee emphasized that Hertz has not agreed to purchase the hotel. He said the sale would have to approved by the city and Bankruptcy Judge James F. Schneider.

"At this point we don't have a signed purchase agreement," Davies said this week. "We are filing the motion to get the ball rolling."

Even if the sale goes forward, it would net only about half of the $10 million currently owed creditors, including the city.

The $5.5 million proposed purchase price falls far short of the hotel's appraised value of $14 million if converted to condominiums.

Hertz has expressed interest in converting the Belvedere's 180 rooms into apartments or condominiums.

One East Chase Street Associates, the hotel's owners, filed for bankruptcy in May 1989.

The Belvedere has had trouble competing with the new hotels that sprang up around the Inner Harbor area and has fallen deeper into debt.