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Old May 8th, 2007, 07:46 PM   #3421
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http://www.baltimoresun.com/business...home-headlines

2 downtown towers sold
Mercantile, W.R. Grace buildings go for $78.9 million, netting owner $11 million in less than three years
By Lorraine Mirabella
Sun reporter
Originally published May 8, 2007
Two office towers in the heart of downtown Baltimore's business district have been sold for $78.9 million, handing a Norfolk, Va., investment group an $11 million profit in less than three years.

Harbor Group International LLC said yesterday that it sold the Mercantile Bank and Trust Building, a 21-story tower at 2 Hopkins Plaza, and the 16-story W. R. Grace Building, at 10 E. Baltimore St., to USA Realty Fund.





Harbor Group International bought the buildings, just a block apart, in 2004, paying $67.6 million - $51.2 million for the Mercantile building and $16.4 million for the W.R. Grace building at Baltimore and Charles streets.

"We think that we got a good price," said Jordan E. Slone, chairman of Harbor Group International. "We were able to achieve our investment objectives in a shorter period than expected" thanks to a strong commercial real estate market and the demand for well-located buildings with a solid roster of tenants.

"Baltimore is a city that most investors are still very much interested in investing in property in the downtown. It's considered a good market. ... You can buy some good quality properties in Baltimore for less than half the price" of comparable properties in Washington.

The acquisitions are part of a resurgence of interest in the older buildings of downtown's central office district, including some that spearheaded the downtown business district comeback of the mid-1960s.

Just last month, a nearby, landmark Baltimore office tower at 1 N. Charles St. built in 1963 by oil magnate Jacob Blaustein, was purchased by the Buccini/Pollin Group, of Wilmington, Del., which said it saw growth in the downtown market.

Though the purchase price was not disclosed, the developer said it would spend more than $30 million, including the acquisition cost and nearly $10 million in renovations for the 25-story tower and outside plaza.

While newer office buildings have cropped up around the Inner Harbor and large companies have been drawn to the emerging office waterfront spots of Harbor East and Canton, investors are rediscovering the business district where older office buildings have been converted to apartments or hotels.

The Mercantile and Grace buildings have been attractive to investors because of their tenants, said David W. Baird, senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield in Baltimore.

The 404,000-square-foot Mercantile building, which includes a tower and three-story pavilion and parking garage, was built in 1970. It is completely leased, with more than half the space occupied by Mercantile Bank and Trust.

Mercantile Bank, which had used the tower as its headquarters, was acquired by PNC Financial Group for $6 billion in a transaction that closed in March, and PNC has taken over the lease. Another 140,649 square feet is leased to law firm Venable LLP.

The Grace building, with 168,668 square feet, was built in 1973 and is 97 percent leased to a mix of state government, engineering and real estate tenants.

The purchase price, which equates to nearly $138 per square foot for both buildings, is considered a high price, if not a record, for a Class B building, or one without the amenities of brand new office space, Baird said. But because the sale price of each individual building was not disclosed, it was unclear what each sold for on a per square foot basis.

"That's a good price blended across the two buildings," Baird said. "And knowing that Mercantile building sold for roughly $50 million [in 2004], the upside for Harbor Group was nice; it wasn't extravagant but a good return on their investment. This helps to bring a good institutional presence to that part of downtown."

By comparison, Harbor Group International bought the Mercantile building 2 1/2 years ago for $126 per square foot.

Representatives of the buyer, USA Realty Fund, could not be reached for comment yesterday. USA Realty Fund is a commingled real estate equity investment account of the Union Labor Life Insurance Co.

Slone said Harbor Group International has no plans to sell another of its downtown holdings, the 25-story Wachovia Bank tower at 7 St. Paul St., where Baltimore law firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP occupies nearly 90,000 square feet.

"We're very happy with that building," he said. "It's doing well. For now, we plan on keeping that building."
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Old May 8th, 2007, 08:38 PM   #3422
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 30 Floors Up View Post
They just significantly expanded the marina at the foot of Federal Hill. There was no forum for public input for this project.
They expanded it? Looked at it recently and it appeared it was just rebuilt and reoriented (boats enter and exit via the west rather than north) in the same footprint. Er, waterprint. Wouldn't the Army Corps have gotten involved if it was expanded--encroachment on navigable waters, etc.?
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Old May 8th, 2007, 09:03 PM   #3423
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i ran into someone this morning who's associated with the 300 east pratt street development. rumor on the street is that the economy has sadly knocked the height of the tower dwon to 37 stories.....

hope this isn't true
i was looking forward to atleast one soaring and graceful tower along pratt street. if 300 east pratt is knocked back to 37 stories, it might get stumpy? keeping my fingers corssed....

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Old May 8th, 2007, 09:05 PM   #3424
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Baltimore is lucky to even have the Ritz come in the first place. And probably is even luckier that it's as short as it is. There was nothing there before but an ugly view of an unused site next to some water nobody looked at anyway. So I'm sorry but you can count me in the group that says there's plenty of views of water, especially down by the water, and let's count ourselves lucky that development has finally caught up to Baltimore. Start complaining when they build on parks and public space by the water.

Also, Baltimore IMHO should not be solely defined by the water/harbor, as some of you are insinuating right now. You know there's more to Baltimore than the water, and in the past, before the Inner Harbor revitalization, the water was only used for industrial purposes. Somehow, Baltimore carved out an image of itself that must have included something besides the harbor. It should be a part of it, certainly, and for tourists right now it is what they come for; but like we've been discussing on this thread recently, it's time to branch out a bit. We've had our time to complain about views being "lost" to the Ritz a while ago--let's move on. Perhaps it's time to add another 15 feet to Federal Hill!
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Old May 8th, 2007, 09:28 PM   #3425
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VERY lucky to have the RITZ. Because of them this city has a greater chance to survive. Start thinking outside of your own small world ala your commute, your favorite place to walk, your favorite view.

Theres more to this city than just that. Despite the success of the harbor there are still MANY struggling areas of the city. And MAYBE, just MAYBE with the tax dollars from projects like the Ritz and with some hard work and little corruption from the city we can repair Baltimore as a whole.

These developments aren't just about having a nice skyline.. aren't intended to get someone fired up about their view.. Its about making this a city that can work again. Bringing in revenues so that we can do things like reducing crime and making schools better. making EVERY neighborhood better. I dont care how many hats there are on these buildings cause thats not whats important to me. The health of the city and its communities is and if those hats can help, I welcome them. If blocking off the harbor which the ritz is barely doing, I welcome it.

I would hope that anyone who claims to be concerned with urban development would be concerned with way more than a skyline or a view of some water which again IS STILL THERE and all you have to do is look from somewhere else.

Last edited by House3780; May 8th, 2007 at 09:42 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 09:51 PM   #3426
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Liberty/Clay Street Superblock questions and answers - straight from the BDC.

http://www.baltimoredevelopment.com/...0Questions.pdf

Last edited by 30 Floors Up; May 8th, 2007 at 09:59 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 10:00 PM   #3427
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Quote:
Originally Posted by folsomfanatic View Post
i ran into someone this morning who's associated with the 300 east pratt street development. rumor on the street is that the economy has sadly knocked the height of the tower dwon to 37 stories.....

hope this isn't true
That's a bit disappointing. But 37 stories is still better than a surface parking lot. Hope the project gets under way soon.

Last edited by Gsol; May 8th, 2007 at 10:47 PM.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 11:25 PM   #3428
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I really don't think any big project is going to get under way anytime soon, sadly.
It would be nice, but I think everyone, (developers), is a little concerned about the economy and the housing slump right now to build any new tall expensive towers.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 11:29 PM   #3429
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Sad news about 300 E Pratt. 37 stories would be very disappointing, especially with how slow 10 IH is moving.

As far as the Ritz project, I see both sides of this. The view from Fed Hill to the Harbor was amazing and for some of that to disappear is sad. It was a special place as Folsom said. Still, views remain and it's good to see development, especially because this should bring in some solid taxpayer money that will then be turned around and hopefully used to fix schools and such. I think the buildings look fairly nice, but I do tend to agree that building those right there is kinda pointless. Either do something smaller that protects the water views for those in Fed Hill or do something grand but slender that keeps some view but adds some great density and adds more to the skyline.

I for one think the slender tower would be perfect there and think Baltimore needs to start looking to go slender instead of buildings like Water Tower and the Vue. 30 story buildings that are pretty fat aren't that appealing in a skyline.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 11:35 PM   #3430
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Slender is better, IMHO. But, they don't want to build them it seems.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 11:37 PM   #3431
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All and all, I think Baltimore fared pretty welll through this last real estate boom cycle. There are smaller projects all over town still popping up and we have the 4 seasons complex to look foward to over the next couple years. The harbor is going to continue to become more and more dense and as FOT often says.....the 24hr downtown is coming.

I'm still pulling for 10IH though. Thats the key project.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 11:59 PM   #3432
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Quote:
Originally Posted by House3780 View Post
I would hope that anyone who claims to be concerned with urban development would be concerned with way more than a skyline or a view of some water which again IS STILL THERE and all you have to do is look from somewhere else.
True. View corridors (e.g. Cross Street in Fed Hill) and a soon-to-be seven mile waterfront promenade, to name two.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 12:30 AM   #3433
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The Doracon website, which was up and running a few weeks ago, is back to its old "New Website Coming Soon." I wonder why that is.

Also, I wonder if the city would even approve a 37 story design for 300 East Pratt St. They did supposedly shoot down a 29 story design for Lockwood Place at 600 East Pratt St. because it wasn't tall enough.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 01:12 AM   #3434
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Quote:
Originally Posted by folsomfanatic View Post
i ran into someone this morning who's associated with the 300 east pratt street development. rumor on the street is that the economy has sadly knocked the height of the tower dwon to 37 stories.....

hope this isn't true
I wouldn't mind that much if the architecture was great. Remember, that was the height of the Schulweis apartment building we kept wishing got build, but then we got greedy with news of supertall proposals .

On another note, seriously, I wouldn't mind if the entire Inner Harber west of the Jones Falls outlet, were filled in and became a giant park. We'd finally have a large downtown park like every other city.

It would be expensive, but if they built a retaining wall, we could build an underground garage that would be so vast, we could knock down have the garages downtown, free-up real estate, and not require parking be built for new developments in the area and have a great landscaped green park on top. And we'd still have a pretty big harbor facing Fells Point, Locust Point, and Canton. My soapbox cents.

Nate
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Old May 9th, 2007, 01:35 AM   #3435
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From Planning Department

The 52 story 300 East Pratt maybe old news.

Your request was forwarded to me . I too follow Baltimore development, from a professional perspective.

The projects you have noted are a few of the very exciting proposals that have the potential to transform the downtown. Of an interest to my department is the recent trend towards very tall buildings. 60 stories seems to be the new black, so to speak. In addition to those you list, there are a number of proposals for tall buildings around the city including the 4 seasons project at Harbor East, and the signature tower proposed for Westport.

Regarding the three you mention, 10 Inner Harbor is in the design phase. The developer is still committed to a 60 story tower on this site and had last presented a shear faced, sculpted glass tower, designed by Robert Stern. 300 East Pratt, is also in design. The developer is proposing a 52 story mixed use project featuring hospitality and residential uses. It will sit on a parking podium with Retail space facing Pratt Street. Finally, The Balloon Site. My understanding is that Negotiations are underway with the developer and to date the only published proposal for the site is the “Lucky Strike” proposal by the office of Michael Graves.

I am optimistic about the trend towards signature designers. This is one of the hallmarks of a great city. We will work with the developers to make the most of these important sites on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore. Thanks for your interest.

Regards

Last edited by fanofterps; May 9th, 2007 at 01:43 AM.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 01:41 AM   #3436
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My opinion

I agree with most on the board that we have a wait for 10 Inner Harbor and 300 East Pratt. I am more optimistic about the Cordish Tower starting within the next 12-15 months based on my e-mail to the Planning Dept and an e-mail from a top development official that we should hear something about the Cordish Tower this summer.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 07:05 AM   #3437
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Quote:
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Thanks! -- definitely some items of interest here.

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Old May 9th, 2007, 11:45 AM   #3438
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Proposed deal could revitalize Waxter site
New senior center, apartments sought in Mount Vernon

By Jill Rosen
Sun reporter
Originally published May 9, 2007



A Baltimore developer is proposing a multimillion-dollar land swap: If the city gives him an outdated senior center in Mount Vernon, he'll replace it and build hundreds of studio apartments on the site.
Howard Chambers wants to build a 600-unit apartment/condominium building on the site of the Waxter Center, a 34-year-old complex where seniors take classes, exercise and get checkups. If he gets the property, valued at just over $3 million, Chambers would build an $8 million senior center on what is now the center's parking lot.

"I don't know if you can find a better win, win, win," Chambers said. "We think we have a very good proposal that works for everybody."

When it was new in the 1970s, experts lavished praise on the Waxter, at 1000 Cathedral St., then a cutting-edge institution where the elderly could socialize, see physicians, keep learning -- even swim.

But now officials say the building needs millions of dollars' worth of repairs and renovations. The city's Commission on Aging and Retirement Education had been trying to raise money for about five years when Chambers floated his proposal.

The idea of getting a new center instead of struggling to pay for spot fixes intrigues John P. Stewart, the commission's executive director.

Chambers has offered to build the seniors an energy-efficient center with a pool, a gym, classrooms -- modern versions of everything they have now -- plus a garden and a cafe.

"It would offer the seniors we serve an incredible opportunity to walk into a state-of-the-art facility that we are in no position to fund right now," Stewart said. "This might be a really good opportunity for the city."

Chambers wants the commission to give him the approximately $2 million it has raised for Waxter renovations to contribute to his construction costs.

After Chambers proposed the swap, the Baltimore Development Corp. put out a call for other ideas for the site.

Two other firms expressed interest, including Washington-based RWN Development, the company that wants to build a 60-story tower on the site of the Terminal Warehouse on Guilford Avenue near the downtown end of the Jones Falls Expressway.

The BDC seemed to tailor its request for proposals to match Chambers' plan, looking for developers interested in building both a high-density project and a new Waxter Center in exchange for the land.

"The facility should be constructed at no cost to the city or [the commission on aging]," the city's ad read. "In exchange the city is prepared to contemplate a fee-simple, no-cost transfer of the current city-owned land."

RWN officials did not return calls this week.

Stewart said a committee is reviewing the three proposals. Such a deal would eventually need the blessing of the City Council and Baltimore's Board of Estimates.

Meanwhile, council members have asked for a report on the condition of the Waxter Center and the feasibility of renovating it.

Chambers began thinking about the Waxter site last year after another project he sought in Mount Vernon fell through. He had wanted to raze four historic carriage houses on Morton Street to build condominiums, but preservationists protested the destruction of the protected buildings.

When he started looking into available nonhistoric properties in the area, Chambers heard of the Waxter renovation campaign.

"That's what got me started thinking about what we could do," he said. "I knew Mount Vernon didn't want that building there for another 20 to 50 years."

Along with two European developers, Chambers wants to build very small apartments geared toward young people. With the number of schools around Mount Vernon -- the Maryland Institute College of Art, the Peabody Conservatory, the University of Baltimore -- Chambers thinks there's a market for the 375-square-foot studios. He'd rent half of them for about $800 a month and sell the rest for $140,000 to $150,000.
The commission on aging initially had hoped that some of the units could be reserved for seniors, but Chambers said that isn't possible. "An incubator for future residents in the city, that's sort of the concept," he said.

There would be retail space on the ground floor and a garage for about 350 cars. Chambers would incorporate an adjacent historic home into the plan, using it for senior center offices. The building, which Chambers said would be about 14 stories, would be designed to accommodate Mount Vernon's new height rules.

Though a little wary of how the hundreds of apartments might affect parking in the neighborhood, Mount Vernon community activists generally like Chambers' idea.

"It's good preservation, it's good land use, it will add density and parking -- what's not to love?" said Mount Vernon Belvedere Association Vice President R. Paul Warren. "It makes a lot of sense."


Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., whose district includes Mount Vernon, said he's eager to see the proposals for the site.

"The Waxter Center needs to be updated or completely refurbished to accommodate our seniors," he said. "But in terms of the proposal, I need to look at it. The devil's in the details."

A key part of the plan, Stewart said, is that senior center services would not be interrupted. Chambers would not raze the old center to start building the apartments until the new center is complete.

The Waxter Center, with 3,000 members, averages about 185 visitors a day.

"My object is to make sure we get the best deal for the older adults we serve," Stewart said. "We would not disenfranchise anyone."



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Old May 9th, 2007, 11:52 AM   #3439
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May 9, 2007 3:00 AM (1 hr 49 mins ago)
by Dave Carey, The Examiner
Work force housing is a key to the future of Baltimore-area real estate.

For the housing market to be successful, it must create a system to support people moving from low-income housing to moderate- and then high-income homes, Ilene Kessler, president of the Maryland Association of Realtors, told The Examiner. Work force housing is at the core of that cycle, creating stable, affordable options for local hardworking residents, she said.

With an influx of middle-class and blue-collar workers coming to the area as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure initiative, finding and identifying housing to meet their needs will be key, Kessler said.

“This is something [everyone working together] has to address and can’t say another community will handle it,” Kessler said. “It affects all of us and is a pressing issue.”

In the Baltimore region, March statistics by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems have houses selling for an average of $306,588. Locally, Anne Arundel County, where Fort Meade is, has homes going for an average of $395,037, while nearby Baltimore City remains more affordable at $178,019. In Harford County, where the Aberdeen Proving Ground is, homes are selling for an average of $296,432.

“The region lacks an adequate supply of housing in decent condition that is available to a wide range of low- and moderate-income households,” said Tania Baker, acting director of communications for Baltimore Housing.

About 28,000 new households will soon move to the area, with about 24,000 of these being homebuyers, the Maryland BRAC study conducted by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development found.

With the Mortgage Bankers Association reporting that Maryland had a 12.39 percent increase in subprime loans for the last quarter, Kessler said it was important that people in the housing market work together to keep these potential buyers in their homes.

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Old May 9th, 2007, 12:11 PM   #3440
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Sadly, the rumor is true:

To: Jeff Monge
Subject: rumor

Hi, Jeff. I recently heard a rumor that the 300 east pratt street project
was reduced to a 37 story tower. Is this really true?
Any info would be appreciated.
Thanks, again.

Steve Wyatt

www.skyscrapercity.com
www.skyscraperpage.com

---------------------
His answer:

Yes it has been reduced but it is not final.

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