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Old January 25th, 2007, 03:53 PM   #221
wada_guy
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FINALLY

Lofty dreams for Railway building
JEN DEGREGORIO
Daily Record Business Writer

January 24, 2007 6:13 PM



After years of planning, developers have finally begun renovating Baltimore’s historic Railway Express building, a mixed-use project observers say will connect downtown with a burgeoning arts district just up the street. The 77,000-square-foot structure was built in 1929 as a mail depot for parcels arriving by train from Penn Station, which sits directly across Saint Paul Street from the former the U.S. Parcel Post Station. Baltimore City later bought the facility and used it as a warehouse until 2003 before selling it the next year to a team of developers called Railway Express LLC.

In a matter of days, the company will begin an $11 million conversion of the facility into 30 loft-style apartments with 32,000 square feet of commercial space. But some minor, interior construction has already begun, said Martin P. Azola, a partner in Railway Express LLC. “We’re off and running finally,” he said. “It’s a handsome structure, and when we’re done with it, it will very much complement the train station.”

Renovations of the concrete-and-brick revival-style building could be complete by mid-summer of this year. Commercial tenants have already signed onto the project, including Harrison Development LLC, Doracon LLC and Case[werks] LLC, a custom display case-maker relocating from North Charles Street. A coffee shop is also in the works.

The project experienced a number of false starts over the years, said Azola, whose partners include Ronald Lipscomb, Edward Hord, Kenneth Banks, Michael Novak and Anthony Ambridge. At one point, the team had planned to use the structure for mainly commercial purposes but had to rethink the project when its major tenant, Carton Donofrio Partners, backed out of a deal. “It was a real body blow at the time,” Azola said. “The Baltimore City commercial office market took a real nosedive around the same time.”

The company then briefly considered turning the structure into an academy for a program the Baltimore school system was contemplating but never realized. The team ultimately decided on a mixed-use project after witnessing new investments north of Penn Station. The city recently branded the area Station North Arts and Entertainment District, taking its name from an artists’ community that had flocked there to take advantage of cheap housing and abundant warehouse space.

“Three or four years ago this area was nothing but a big, vast wasteland,” Azola said. “But there are new things going on.”

Construction is nearly complete on 32 new townhouses on the 1700 block of North Calvert Street. The 1700 block of North Charles Street, meanwhile, has a thriving independent movie theater, The Charles, as well as the recently expanded eatery Sofi’s Crepes and the Everyman Theatre. The city has also chosen developers for an urban renewal project that would rehabilitate the abandoned Chesapeake Restaurant and adjacent property on North Charles Street.

“I do think it’s a real bridge between what’s happening in Mount Vernon and what’s happening on the proverbial ‘other side of the tracks,’” Stewart Watson, a sculptor who lives in Station North, said of the Railways Express building renovation. Azola expects the building to appeal to residents who want easy access to the train station. The proximity has already lured at least one commercial tenant.

“Our clientele comes from all over the Northeast corridor,” said Matt Malaquias, co-owner of Case[werks], which provides display furnishings for museums, universities and other users. “We like the fact that it’s in the Station North Arts District; we are a company that serves the museum and library communities, so for us it would be a good fit.”

One- and two-bedroom apartments will likely cost between $900 and $1,900 per month, Azola said. Wilson notes that most artists cannot afford such high prices, undercutting the city’s efforts to create a so-called “arts district.”
“Speculators and developers, in my opinion, are both good and bad for the area,” Watson said.

Last edited by wada_guy; January 25th, 2007 at 07:36 PM.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 03:59 PM   #222
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It really should have stayed industrial. We need to protect our natural resources, and that was definitely one of them. There's plenty of obsolete industrial zoning to change, but deep water is irreplaceable.

I think the new City Master Plan has addressed this issue for future parcels.

Nate
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Old January 25th, 2007, 04:10 PM   #223
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Park's path: Folly to neglect, rebirth
A median garden downtown is to regain its 1920s grandeur

By Jill Rosen
Sun reporter
Originally published January 25, 2007
A sylvan sliver in the unlikeliest of places, an urban luxury once criticized as a former mayor's extravagance and then neglected for much of its nearly 100-year existence, Baltimore's Preston Gardens is finally getting its due.

The garden in the middle of St. Paul Street - which would more accurately be described as the city's fanciest median - is slated for a nearly $900,000 overhaul. The effort would not only restore the park to its former glory, but improve on it with a flourishing landscape, working fountains and better lighting - all in the hope that the hard-luck plot can become a real downtown park.





"It's an island in the middle of St. Paul Street, but for many people, the literally thousands of downtown businesspeople, it's kind of like a front yard," said Mike Evitts, spokesman for Downtown Partnership, the organization leading the restoration effort. "This could be a world-class park."

In the early 1900s, a fair number of Baltimoreans considered Mayor James H. Preston off his rocker as he zealously pushed a plan to spend $1.2 million on a slim park that would run for about three blocks along the middle of an expanded St. Paul Street.

The mayor's critics began calling the project "Preston's Folly." Those who owned homes in the path of the mayor's pet project were also less than thrilled.

Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted came up with the idea for the park as he drafted ideas for Baltimore's overall green space in 1905, but it was Thomas Hastings, another esteemed architect, who designed it years later.

Officials in jackets with tails and straw hats gathered in May 1919 to dedicate Preston Terraces, as it was then known. Dignitaries took seats in chairs set out all along the imposing stone stairs.

"It is not uncommon," Hastings told the crowd, according to articles in The Sun at the time, "to see the useful without the beautiful, or the beautiful without the useful, but it is rare to see a section such as was this, almost useless and unquestionably ugly, transformed into magnificent terraces that have already given health and life to this vicinity as well as pleasure to all who come in contact therewith."

But it didn't take long for nature and neglect to start chipping away at Hastings' magnificence.

Just a couple of years after the dedication, city fathers briefly entertained a proposal to build a series of parking garages for 2,000 cars on the garden site. That fizzled, but by the Depression, with money for niceties like floral displays out of the question, the city began leaving the gardens bare for years at a time. Many mourned the missing tulips - shots of color that they so quickly had come to expect.

By the 1950s, winos in the park were almost part of the landscape, snoozing under the now-scruffy bushes. And despite the best efforts of the most determined garden clubs, Preston Gardens has been, more or less, on a sad decline ever since.

But the Downtown Partnership hopes to turn that around. With just under $900,000 to spend - most of which is coming from the city - the organization has plans for an overhaul, one that it hopes will have people reconsidering what has long been forgettable public space.

"It's really the largest chunk of green space we have downtown," said Nan Rohrer, the partnership's retail development director. "Hopefully, when we're finished with it, it will almost resemble an English garden and lawn."

Because of the park's lineage, those leading the beautification effort are quick to call it a "restoration" rather than a redesign. They want to carefully preserve the essence of Hastings' vision for the park but freshen it so that it works as well a century later.

"We're treading very lightly might be a way to think about it," said Carol Macht of Hord Coplan Macht, who's handling the design and said she's trying to reveal the fine bones beneath the unkempt plantings. "It's a privilege to be able to work with such wonderful architecture."

So they'll haul away dead trees and overgrown shrubs, scrub and repair the ornate stone staircases and retaining wall, and tinker with the southernmost of the two fountains to see whether it can be coaxed into working again. (The other fountain has more serious, cost-prohibitive issues and could become a planter.)

They'll pad the ground with fresh grass, fill in the ground with perennials and flowering trees, and add shade-throwing species along the park's west side.

The final touch will be lighting, arranged to wash over the architectural elements and to make people feel safe.

The Downtown Partnership has made refreshing the city's plazas something of a mission. Their $6 million Center Plaza reconstruction should be finished by summer, and they've tried to brighten the gray of Hopkins Plaza with landscaping and potted flowers.

The organization doesn't just want the parks to look good, it wants people to start using them.

To get folks into Preston Gardens, the organization tried holding movie nights. And in the fall it tried picnics with live music on Fridays.

The partnership surveyed downtown residents in the fall and found that quality-of-life issues are first on everyone's mind.

"It's more than just about aesthetics for their own sake," Evitts said. "The way things look affects how people perceive the environment."

Businesses that surround the gardens have taken an interest in its well-being. Tremont hotels, for instance, has contributed money to the cleanup. It considers the donation an investment of sorts.

Tremont's managing director, Michael Haynie, has been known to escape there, seeking shade and serenity on particularly trying days.

"We definitely believe in that park," Haynie said. "The more we highlight it and clean it up, the more it becomes a focal point to a re-energized area."

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Old January 25th, 2007, 05:49 PM   #224
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Originally Posted by wada_guy View Post
FINALLY

Lofty dreams for Railway building
JEN DEGREGORIO
Daily Record Business Writer
This is great. Im really excited about this project. With this building, 1209 North Charles, the Printers Mill Apartments at the old firehouse, the new rowhouses on Calvert Street, the Chesapeake and all the indiviual development/rehab projects, the northern Mt. Vernon/Station North area will be getting lots of new residents. Those new residential units coupled with the new UB dorms and UB/MICAs pending Bolton Yards development will really add to that area.

Does anyone know where Amtrak is with the hotel above Penn Station? I know President Bush is asking for more federal support for Amtrak...hopefully they're still looking at new, innovative revenue sources.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 05:51 PM   #225
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Anyone have a picture of the Railway building? I can't quite place it.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 06:01 PM   #226
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Anyone have a picture of the Railway building? I can't quite place it.

it's right across the street from penn station if you come down st. paul street.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 06:04 PM   #227
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Quote:
Originally Posted by southbalto View Post
Park's path: Folly to neglect, rebirth
A median garden downtown is to regain its 1920s grandeur

By Jill Rosen
Sun reporter
While some people on this board seem to only appreciate articles announcing more height in this city, I really want to take the time to give it up for the city of Baltimore for its renewed committment to green space. I'm so glad that Otis Rolley and his staff understand the importance of greenspace in urban areas. First War Memorial Plaza was redone, then came West Shore Park, then Center Plaza got the nod and now its Preston Gardens' turn for a make over.

I'll be the first to say that none of the recent rehabs have been perfect. War Memorial, while hobo-less and a definitive improvement over the previous aesthic, is still fairly uninviting from a design standpoint. I dont know if I should sit on the grass and enjoy it or admire it like a piece of art in a museum. West Shore Park seemed cold and sterile when it first opened. I havent been down there since. Perhaps it just needs a little time to develop some character. Center Plaza should be nice when it gets finished. Preston Gardens should be enjoyed by the office and hospital workers, local residents and tourists who stay at local hotels.

Hooray for the City of Bmore.

Forgive anytypos. Im on my Blackberry.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 06:23 PM   #228
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Originally Posted by getontrac View Post
It really should have stayed industrial. We need to protect our natural resources, and that was definitely one of them. There's plenty of obsolete industrial zoning to change, but deep water is irreplaceable.

I think the new City Master Plan has addressed this issue for future parcels.

Nate
Perhaps, but didn't the city build all the infrastructure, roads, etc, and then have no one interested in industrial use? I'm in favor of the most efficient and dense use of the property (given its flexibility for many uses) so when it was zoned industrial, and there were no takers, doesn't that mean that industrial use isn't the best alternative?
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Old January 25th, 2007, 06:40 PM   #229
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News from the Daily Record is now free.

http://www.mddailyrecord.com/

Last edited by wada_guy; January 25th, 2007 at 08:18 PM.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 07:18 PM   #230
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Does anyone know where Amtrak is with the hotel above Penn Station? I know President Bush is asking for more federal support for Amtrak...hopefully they're still looking at new, innovative revenue sources.
Bush asking for more amtrak funding? lol. Before Amtrak improves any properties, it will need to chip away at several billion dollars of deferred maintenance across the plant and replace aging amfleet equipment. No way in hell is it going to spend its capital appropriation for property improvement. What Amtrak could do is sell or lease a portion of the Penn Station property to a developer to fix up. My guess is that this is a long time off, as the station needs a lot of work before it can accommodate a hotel. I'd rather that Amtrak worry about real problems, like its basic operations, and not on urban development.

Amtrak, to its credit, recently created a website, called great american stations, which proposes guidelines for station renovation, giving communities that want new train stations better planning tools. It doesn't, however, provide any means of funding those improvements.

Station North should also get a boost from some of the properties that the Housing Department auctioned off to developers in the fall. Calvert Street really has a lot of potential -- even some of the old warehouses in Barclay. A lot of exciting work to be done!
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Old January 25th, 2007, 07:52 PM   #231
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it's right across the street from penn station if you come down st. paul street.
Haha, c'mon it's cold out! Don't make me walk down there and look at it!

WadaGuy, I know you gotta have a pic of this building somewhere in your archive! lol
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Old January 25th, 2007, 07:56 PM   #232
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Nevermind, there's a pic on the Daily Record site. I know it now. Great news that it's going to be put to good use!

Gotta love the development we're seeing away from the waterfront. Now lets get rolling on the Chesapeake site! That's an eyesore to the 100th degree!
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Old January 25th, 2007, 08:12 PM   #233
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waj0527 View Post
While some people on this board seem to only appreciate articles announcing more height in this city, I really want to take the time to give it up for the city of Baltimore for its renewed committment to green space. I'm so glad that Otis Rolley and his staff understand the importance of greenspace in urban areas. First War Memorial Plaza was redone, then came West Shore Park, then Center Plaza got the nod and now its Preston Gardens' turn for a make over.

I'll be the first to say that none of the recent rehabs have been perfect. War Memorial, while hobo-less and a definitive improvement over the previous aesthic, is still fairly uninviting from a design standpoint. I dont know if I should sit on the grass and enjoy it or admire it like a piece of art in a museum. West Shore Park seemed cold and sterile when it first opened. I havent been down there since. Perhaps it just needs a little time to develop some character. Center Plaza should be nice when it gets finished. Preston Gardens should be enjoyed by the office and hospital workers, local residents and tourists who stay at local hotels.

Hooray for the City of Bmore.

Forgive anytypos. Im on my Blackberry.
I couldn't agree more. I also think the Mt Vernon place could use some sprucing up too. Has anyone heard anything about improvements there?
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Old January 25th, 2007, 08:26 PM   #234
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Railway Express Building

That's great news that this is finally starting to happen, especially with the other residential developments going on just near by i.e. Printers Sq. and 1209 Charles St. But am I the only one that questions the wisdom of building apartments on top of what is one of the busiest rail corridors in the North East? I can't imagine that I would want to plonk down $1900 a month to have to live near all of that noise and pollution, not to speak of the views which would be the rail yard on one side and the JFX on the other.

I really hope something gets going soon with the old Chesapeake Restaurant site. That would be a vast improvement for that streach of Charles St. But personally I don't see that happening soon because of litigation between the owners of the site and the BDC. I also wonder what will happen to that streach of Charles St. in a couple of years when the Everyman moves.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 08:27 PM   #235
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I couldn't agree more. I also think the Mt Vernon place could use some sprucing up too. Has anyone heard anything about improvements there?
I agree, but just minor stuff. New sod, sprucing up the water features, etc. Those squares are classic. Nothing should be done to monderize the look of them.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 08:50 PM   #236
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I AM ANXIOUS TO KNOW!!! What could it be???

- The Four Seasons expansion?

- The Duke Realty Development at the old GM site

- A financial firm expansion?

- Something we haven't heard before like a fortune 500 drug company on its way over?

I must say if this is for real and continues a trend, Baltimore has definitely reached a turning point.

BDC goes behind closed doors to discuss 'large company'

Baltimore Business Journal - 11:34 AM EST Thursdayby Daniel J. SernovitzStaff

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The Baltimore Development Corp., at its third board meeting following a court requirement it open its doors to the public, spent the majority of its two-hour meeting Thursday morning behind closed doors.

Board Chairman Arnold L. Williams, following the meeting, said the closed-door session concerned a significant number of jobs in Baltimore, but he would not say whether they would be generated by a company interested in moving into the city, moving out of Baltimore, or thinking about expanding its presence here.


"It's really about increasing the number of jobs in Baltimore," Williams said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in November that the city's economic development arm must comply with the state's open meeting and record laws. The board held its first public meeting later that month.

In December, the board held a brief public session before recessing into executive session. Williams disclosed after the session ended that the board had voted to award a city redevelopment project in the Carroll Camden section of the city to a group of developers linked to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

At its meeting Thursday morning, the board spent about 30 minutes going over routine items, such as the minutes from its last meeting, before projects committee Chairwoman Deborah Hunt Devan asked for a closed-door session to talk about an unidentified company's finances. Devan said the company had approached the development corporation to discuss a proposal, and board members needed to talk in private about the financial implications of the deal.

That discussion lasted another 90 minutes, and the meeting had ended by the time board members opened the doors to the meeting room again. Details about the company or what it has asked the BDC to do were not disclosed.

BDC President M.J. "Jay" Brodie, when asked whether the business was a private or publicly held company, would only say: "I don't mind saying it's a large company."

Williams said the board members need to consider more aspects of the proposal, and the board could be ready to vote on the matter at its March 22 meeting.

"This was starting discussion about what's coming, and we're not prepared [to vote], we have to do some more work," he said.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 09:47 PM   #237
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Talk about pandering for votes, look at what this state senator from Kent County is planning to do http://wjz.com/watercooler/local_story_018101605.html. Are any of you in favor of a second bay bridge in Baltimore County?
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Old January 25th, 2007, 09:50 PM   #238
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BDC goes behind closed doors to discuss 'large company'

It would be great to see a company expansion or a completely new company calling Baltimore it's home. I just hope it's not about an existing company looking to relocate out of the city. I don't want to sound pessimistic, but we have seen it happen many times before. I am trying to be up beat about it though!!!!
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Old January 25th, 2007, 10:05 PM   #239
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Blackbirds struggling to take flight this winter

BALTIMORE - Hoping to cure the football hangover currently plaguing Baltimore, the newly formed American Indoor Football Association has started the Baltimore Blackbirds, a team that hopes to play at 11,000-seat 1st Mariner Arena.


“We’re hoping to tap into the fact that Baltimore is a huge football city,” said John Wolfe, the team’s general manager. “The bottom line is, Baltimore loves football.”

The team’s Web site lists the arena as the team’s home, but a deal has not been finalized, according to an arena spokesperson.

“We are in negotiations, and we can’t comment any further,” the spokesperson said Wednesday.

Currently, the Blackbirds’ schedule says the team will have a bye until the sixth week of the season, when it opens against the Reading (Pa.) Express on March 10. Wolfe indicated the schedule might change and the team could play 13 consecutive games.

Indoor football differs slightly from the popular Arena Football League, Wolfe said, in that there are more running plays. Fans are close to the action, and if a ball goes into the stands, a fan keeps it.

Blackbirds owner Alexander Austin, who said he is a Prince George’s County-based real estate developer, is hoping to attract former Baltimore high school and college stars as players. Austin, who said he attended Towson University, went through a rigorous interview process before being granted a team and plans on having the Blackbirds active in Baltimore, he said.

“We would love to get into the community and start reaching out to the youth of Baltimore,” Austin said. “We’re in a great market.”

The Blackbirds will hold a final tryout for the team Saturday morning at the Freestate Sports Arena in White Marsh. Wolfe said that once the team has finalized the roster, which already lists five players, it will make its first public appearance next week.

The team is still in negotiations for a training facility and headquarters.

“We should be signing a deal this week with a training facility,” Wolfe said.

The Blackbirds have already had two head coaches in their brief history, most recently hiring longtime indoor football coach Chris Simpson. The team’s Web site lists Simpson’s career coaching record at 68-35, including stints with indoor teams like the San Angelo (Texas) Stampede and Tucson (Ariz.) Thunder.

The Blackbirds announced Ted Coleman as its first head coach last month, but a statement on the team’s Web site said it ”failed to reach a contract agreement” with Coleman.

A Jan. 8 article attributed to Coleman on oursportscentral.com said Coleman planned on suing Austin.

The Examiner sent an e-mail Wednesday to the address listed for Coleman on oursportscentral.com and received a response from an unidentified sender saying he is planning to sue Austin for “the breach of a verbal contractual agreement and written contractual agreement.” Further attempts to reach this individual Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Asked about the potential suit, Austin declined to comment before adding, “We have heard some things about it and it’s unfortunate and we are definitely moving forward

This could be fun. It's nice to see the arena getting more use (even though we need a new one) and If it takes off it could be a boon for the business in the area.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 10:13 PM   #240
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The Four Seasons won't involve a large number of jobs -- probably 1-200, I bet. I'm assuming that this deal also isn't about Morgan Stanley. My best guess is that it's Smith Barney, which is currently subleasing space from Legg Mason. Smith Barney's parent company, Citigroup, isn't doing so well, so it's highly likely brokers could be laid off here, particularly if the company is looking to trim fat. I would also assume that if the deal involves Smith Barney, it implicates Legg Mason, whose lease would be affected by any move from their building. The company's lease expires sometime this year, as well.

T. Rowe Price decided to stay in the city in 2004, rather than shipping all jobs out. My gut feeling says that the company's decision provides the city with some -- though perhaps not enough -- traction to keep existing companies. I also doubt this involves significant corporate expansion here. The deal is probably about keeping jobs, and what buildings (if they remain) in the city they'll occupy. I'm sure 750 E. Pratt and 1 South Street remain heavily in play....
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