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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:18 AM   #1521
StevenW
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http://www.asg-architects.com/


City advisors stake claim to be part of Legg process
Baltimore Business Journal - 7:28 PM EST Thursday, March 1, 2007by Daniel J. SernovitzStaff
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Members of a Baltimore city advisory panel got their first look at plans for the proposed Legg Mason Tower Thursday during a meeting which newly appointed city Planning Director Douglas B. McCoach firmly said was far from superfluous.

Following the meeting, McCoach said he believes the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel (UDARP), an advisory board which can only make recommendations, has not been cast aside even though city leaders have strongly praised developers H & S Properties Development Corp. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse for coming up with a plan to keep money manager Legg Mason Inc. in the city.


"Actually, I would say UDARP's always in a position to improve projects," McCoach said.

Since signing Legg to an unspecified lease term for 400,000 square feet of the planned 550,000-square-foot Harbor East office tower two weeks ago, the developers have made progress in advancing plans for their waterfront development. Lawrence J. White, chief operating officer for development at Struever Bros., said the developers have already gotten a foundation permit from the city and begun site work needed to build a five-story, 1,200-car underground garage at the property.

McCoach noted the permit is only to start excavating, or digging a giant hole in the ground, and there is no guarantee the city, the UDARP group, or the planning commission will approve of the developers' plans. To the contrary, he noted the planning commission has historically voted with its conscience, and that the developers are gambling with their own money on an outcome that is far from certain.

"It's been my impression that the planning commission will do what it thinks is right," McCoach said.

Struever Bros. and H & S have been planning and developing phases of the $550 million Harbor East project for several years. The city approved an overall plan for the Legg Mason part of the project, which is slated to include a Four Seasons hotel, residential condominium units, retail shops and restaurants.

The developers substantially changed their plans and put off a planned fall groundbreaking last summer after officials from Legg Mason approached them about relocating their headquarters from the firm's marquee building at 100 Light Street.

The sizes and architectural features of both the buildings were changed, and McCoach said the changes were substantial enough that the city will need to modify the original approval before the buildings can be constructed. The developers have committed to having Legg's new tower ready by the summer of 2009.

White presented the modified plans to the UDARP panel Thursday afternoon, and both he and project architect Todd A. Harvey, from Beatty, Harvey & Associates, Architects, stressed the renderings were purely conceptual at this point. White said the developers are hoping to work with the city and have already commissioned a new traffic report to determine what impact the office building will have over the approved use for an 84-unit condominium building.

"I would say it's more than a beginning, but it's not finalized," Harvey said in response to a panel question about whether the developers plans were still in the early stages.

The Four Seasons building and the office building will both increase in height as a result of the changes. The Four Seasons building, originally slated to be 294 feet high, will increase to 455 feet. The office building will grow from 229 feet to 350 feet. There were other changes as well, including increasing the width of what is now the Legg Mason building, adding to the number of hotel rooms, and reducing the number of condominium units.


The panel members expressed some reservations, including how close the office building will be to a promenade along the harbor, how closely the architectural features of the office building will match the residential building, and how much more traffic the office building will create for the narrow roads leading to Harbor East. But they reacted favorably overall to the developers' flexibility and expressed a willingness to be a part of the design process as it moves forward.

Panel member Gary A. Bowden said he feared the design of the office building would forever brand it as an office building, leaving the city with few alternatives if Legg Mason ever decided to move out.

"What would it become except another office building?" he asked before adding: "I could be whistling in the wind on that one, and I probably am."

White said Legg Mason has entered into a "very, very long term lease," and has agreed to make substantial investments in the design and development of the office building, but he could not speak to whether the money manager will be there forever.

One concession the panel members sought to get from the developers was that they not put an additional building at the site where the former Victor's restaurant was. White said some city staff members said they wanted the developers to state definitively what their plans were for the spot, which is now set aside as public space,before they move too far through the city's design process.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:21 AM   #1522
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Wow! People are so demanding.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:33 AM   #1523
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Quote:
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Harbor Point:


These remind me more of Los Angeles than Baltimore, especially the last one. Anybody know was "Lucy" is?
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:34 AM   #1524
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Well, I think I answered my own question. It's a women's "activewear and yoga apparel" store. Like I said, more Los Angeles than Baltimore
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:04 AM   #1525
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Quote:
Originally Posted by baltimoreisbest View Post
Seriously, though, do we NEED a giant TV screen? I'm from New York, and I can say in all honestly that the place I hate most in the city is Times Square (perhaps that is a peculiarity to me). I like the habor because it represents just the right mix of peace and bustle. I don't need a huge board with stock indices, promotional ads, and a news feed coming my way. It's also way out of proportion with the pavillions surrounding the harbor, which are supposed to be low-profile.

When I think of Baltimore, I think architectural detail and quirkiness. Not MTV meets Pratt St.
I'm definitely hesitant when it comes to the TV. I'd imagine there might be other locations that it would be better suited, perhaps part of the facade of a larger building. It seems to clash, if not overpower, the pavillions in those renderings, but we'll see. Perhaps they intend it as a stepping up from Harborplace to downtown.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:14 AM   #1526
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I take 455 feet tall for the Four Season and 350 for the Legg Mason Tower.
Also the Picture of Harbor Point are actually Inner Harbor East not HarborPoint The buildign are actually already built.

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Originally Posted by StevenW View Post
http://www.asg-architects.com/




City advisors stake claim to be part of Legg process
Baltimore Business Journal - 7:28 PM EST Thursday, March 1, 2007by Daniel J. SernovitzStaff
Print this Article Email this Article Reprints RSS Feeds Most Viewed Most Emailed
Members of a Baltimore city advisory panel got their first look at plans for the proposed Legg Mason Tower Thursday during a meeting which newly appointed city Planning Director Douglas B. McCoach firmly said was far from superfluous.

Following the meeting, McCoach said he believes the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel (UDARP), an advisory board which can only make recommendations, has not been cast aside even though city leaders have strongly praised developers H & S Properties Development Corp. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse for coming up with a plan to keep money manager Legg Mason Inc. in the city.


"Actually, I would say UDARP's always in a position to improve projects," McCoach said.

Since signing Legg to an unspecified lease term for 400,000 square feet of the planned 550,000-square-foot Harbor East office tower two weeks ago, the developers have made progress in advancing plans for their waterfront development. Lawrence J. White, chief operating officer for development at Struever Bros., said the developers have already gotten a foundation permit from the city and begun site work needed to build a five-story, 1,200-car underground garage at the property.

McCoach noted the permit is only to start excavating, or digging a giant hole in the ground, and there is no guarantee the city, the UDARP group, or the planning commission will approve of the developers' plans. To the contrary, he noted the planning commission has historically voted with its conscience, and that the developers are gambling with their own money on an outcome that is far from certain.

"It's been my impression that the planning commission will do what it thinks is right," McCoach said.

Struever Bros. and H & S have been planning and developing phases of the $550 million Harbor East project for several years. The city approved an overall plan for the Legg Mason part of the project, which is slated to include a Four Seasons hotel, residential condominium units, retail shops and restaurants.

The developers substantially changed their plans and put off a planned fall groundbreaking last summer after officials from Legg Mason approached them about relocating their headquarters from the firm's marquee building at 100 Light Street.

The sizes and architectural features of both the buildings were changed, and McCoach said the changes were substantial enough that the city will need to modify the original approval before the buildings can be constructed. The developers have committed to having Legg's new tower ready by the summer of 2009.

White presented the modified plans to the UDARP panel Thursday afternoon, and both he and project architect Todd A. Harvey, from Beatty, Harvey & Associates, Architects, stressed the renderings were purely conceptual at this point. White said the developers are hoping to work with the city and have already commissioned a new traffic report to determine what impact the office building will have over the approved use for an 84-unit condominium building.

"I would say it's more than a beginning, but it's not finalized," Harvey said in response to a panel question about whether the developers plans were still in the early stages.

The Four Seasons building and the office building will both increase in height as a result of the changes. The Four Seasons building, originally slated to be 294 feet high, will increase to 455 feet. The office building will grow from 229 feet to 350 feet. There were other changes as well, including increasing the width of what is now the Legg Mason building, adding to the number of hotel rooms, and reducing the number of condominium units.


The panel members expressed some reservations, including how close the office building will be to a promenade along the harbor, how closely the architectural features of the office building will match the residential building, and how much more traffic the office building will create for the narrow roads leading to Harbor East. But they reacted favorably overall to the developers' flexibility and expressed a willingness to be a part of the design process as it moves forward.

Panel member Gary A. Bowden said he feared the design of the office building would forever brand it as an office building, leaving the city with few alternatives if Legg Mason ever decided to move out.

"What would it become except another office building?" he asked before adding: "I could be whistling in the wind on that one, and I probably am."

White said Legg Mason has entered into a "very, very long term lease," and has agreed to make substantial investments in the design and development of the office building, but he could not speak to whether the money manager will be there forever.

One concession the panel members sought to get from the developers was that they not put an additional building at the site where the former Victor's restaurant was. White said some city staff members said they wanted the developers to state definitively what their plans were for the spot, which is now set aside as public space,before they move too far through the city's design process.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:47 AM   #1527
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BalWash View Post
See here:
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=509

Each major project deserves its own thread dedicated to the discussion of that project. It's much better than having to sift through 70+ pages of general Baltimore Development news for those who are only interested in that one major project. This way we can keep all construction photos and news consolidated.
There's just not much material to be had just yet! It's 95% spec and hype!

Nate
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:54 AM   #1528
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March Issue of the Urbanite Magazine

There's a very good well written article regarding the pros and cons of the architecture of 10IH. The guy who wrote the article lived in Baltimore for 3 years and he questions whether the the architecture of the building as proposed fits in conceptually to the Baltimore skyline or is it a height for heights sake hulk of a building that could conceivably be in Dallas or Houston?
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 02:58 AM   #1529
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Haven't seen it yet, but I was going to make a post mentioning "what makes 10IH anything different than say the new midwest, like Indiannapolis, or any Southern city high-rise". Not much that I remember from the newspaper renderings.

Nate
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 03:40 AM   #1530
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmore87 View Post
This was posted a while back. I just wanted to re-post for the people who never saw it.





Thanks for the link BalWash!
IIRC, the Maglev was engineered to be below the Howard St tunnel, where it would need to go for future extensions. There should be enough room at the other end of that facility dipicted to build an HRT Yellow/CAC Red Line between the Howard St Tunnel and the Maglev at the MARC/CLR Station at Howard and Conway--a grand multi-modal facility.

Think about it....

Write your congressmen to fund more study and construction of the $3-6 BILLION harbor freight bypass, otherwise we're stuck with years on end dicapitation of Howard St and the destruction of the LR (which the Feds just dished out like $120 million to help double-track) The health of our port depends on a functional freight system. Howard St Tunnel doesn't have much time left. Maybe 30-40 years max. It would be less if CSX wasn't moving out of the port and to Washington Co. and trucking everything off the boats to there, clogging up our highways and increasing pollution and wasting energy, while sapping the viability of our port.

Seemingly disparate issues all related....ah..it's Friday...and doctor's orders forbid me from having fun.

Nate

Last edited by getontrac; March 3rd, 2007 at 04:03 AM.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 04:05 AM   #1531
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What do you mean by "harbor freight bypass?" The great-arc tunnel or one under the harbor? Has it been said for sure that the Howard Street tunnel can't last much longer? What would happen with the Howard Street tunnel if a new one was built? Ahh, questions!
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 04:27 AM   #1532
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The "Great Circle Tunnel" only works for passengers, not freight--that would replace the B&P Amtrak tunnel under W. Baltimore (which is desperately failing). That works for passengers because it can be deep bored underneath the City, crossing through blocks (residents will have to suck this one up), but it doesn't matter since it's bored.

The Great Circle concept is a no go for freight because grade limitations limit the alignment from diving deep enough fast enough to be well below the houses. Nobody in W. Balto. wants more hazmat freight under neighborhoods. I don't think anywhere in America that exists anymore (except DC, IIRC). Howard St is old, primitive, poorly engineered (no choice) tunnel that has maybe 30-40 years left, but 10-20 in terms of freight capacity, because it's only single tracked and the roof isn't high enough for "double-stacked" or "triple-stacked" freight. It looks like the short term fiasco has been avoided, but it's not really good because it pulls that freight onto trucks (bad for several reasons) and lowers the viability of our port.

A harbor crossing is the only technically and politically viable solution, short of reconstructing Howard St, which EVERYONE is seeking to avoid. I'll check the source (it's been a while since I've gone through this), but Howard St is considered the greatest freight bottleneck in N. America.

America's rail system is sad. The economy of our country rests on projects like these and that's no exaggeration.

Nate
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:36 AM   #1533
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Well it didn't take long. The fence is now up around the Four Seasons site. If those condos are near the top of the hotel building, they will likely be the most costliest homes ever constructed in Baltimore. Truly a million dollar view at 450 feet up in the sky. City views on one side, harbor views on the other. I want one damn it!


The Filene's signs are up!




For some reason, one of the Hilton cranes is coming DOWN, but the 1st Hopkins Hospital crane is now up.


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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:47 AM   #1534
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Great pics
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:48 AM   #1535
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COUNT THE SKYLINES!

The way I see it, there are currently 4 distinct skylines in Baltimore City. Ranked by density, they are:
> Downtown (CBD, IHE, Harborview, Mt. Vernon)
> University Parkway (Charles St., Rotunda, etc)
> Hopkins Hospital
> Canton

Can't make up my mind about the Druid Hill Park lake buildings. There are only four or five 8 to 16 story structures. What do you all think?
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:48 AM   #1536
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Great pix, wada.

Here's an article talked about a while ago:
------------------------------------------------------------------------
By: Adam Gordon

Of the many charms I found in my three years living in Baltimore, very few were located in the downtown core. Sure, I’ll admit that there is something kind of nice about the Inner Harbor. But at the point at which Light Street turns from the charming commercial drag of Federal Hill into a six-lane highway, one could be excused for imagining being in downtown Houston instead of in the supposed center of one of America’s most historic cities.

Touted as Baltimore’s new tallest building—its 700-plus feet will be about one-third taller than the Legg Mason Building—10 Inner Harbor will make the downtown situation even worse. Its sleek, gray exterior could fit quite well in downtown Charlotte or Dallas. Its angular shape, which The Baltimore Sun described as a parallelogram, threatens to break one of the most endearing features of the city’s skyline as seen from local vantage points (my favorite: the southern approach to the Harbor Tunnel). It will muddy the strong sense that, despite all of the wacky designs that predominate in the architectural morass downtown, the city still retains moorings in its historic grid (which, last time I checked, was not parallelogram-shaped). And its drab grayness breaks another good skyline feature: the dominance of reds and blue-greens (even if sometimes only in slight tinges as in the Legg Mason Building) that bring to mind the city’s rowhouses and water.

It’s an odd turn for Robert A. M. Stern, the project’s architect and the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, who has staked his reputation on contextual building and planning. That context has been evident in Stern’s great work, like the initially dismissed but ultimately successful master plan for New York’s Times Square, as well as lesser work like the plan for Disney’s new town of Celebration, Florida (which, though terrifying to experience, sure does scream Disney.) In contrast, 10 Inner Harbor has no context. It could be anywhere.

That said, this project isn’t all bad. As of press time, the proposed 1.3 million square foot (think the Mall in Columbia-size) building is the right size for the site, despite objections from neighborhood groups. The cat is well out of the bag for large-scale development in the area—the site is entirely surrounded by superblock-scale building instead of traditional neighborhoods. The former McCormick factory and current parking lot is a perfectly reasonable place to add a tall building that will bring more people—both permanent residents in the proposed 285 condos and guests in the 192-room hotel—to the often empty streets of downtown. The first-floor retail will help fill a dead zone along streets like Charles and Conway that, due to their location between the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, should be bustling—one can reasonably hope that the retail will spur even more retail in this area. I hope that the inclusionary zoning bill developed last year by a city task force and reputedly close to passage will be in place in time for a few of those condos to go to people with moderate incomes, to give a few more ordinary Baltimoreans an opportunity to live by the Harbor. But the uses and scale are otherwise basically on target.

Still, I just can’t shake the sense that this isn’t a Baltimore building. It’s designed more to show outsiders that Baltimore can play the big building and serious downtown game too, thank you. The developer, ARC Wheeler, frames the project as its “second ‘10’ brand project where mixed-use elements located on significant parks or waterfronts include luxury condominiums, high-end retail, celebrity restaurants, a destination spa, and a boutique hotel.” This is silliness—Philadelphia’s 10 Rittenhouse Square, the first “significant park or waterfront” in the brand, has about as much in common with the Inner Harbor as a Philly cheesesteak has in common with a Baltimore crab cake. But local officials like Baltimore Development Corporation President M. J. “Jay” Brodie gush over it, seeing it as a sign that Baltimore has achieved “real city” status like Philadelphia (which, by the way, is getting a much better-designed Stern building that will fit quite well into that city’s skyline). But wasn’t “real city” status the whole point of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer’s massive downtown redevelopment in the early 1980s? It’s a different era now. Baltimore has proven that it can carry out big developments of national significance (Harborplace, Camden Yards, etc.); it now needs to build on its strengths with some level of self-confidence, not just take a mediocre design simply
because it’s tall and has the Stern imprint.

This important Baltimore site deserves a building with a Baltimore feel. What might that mean? One way to answer that question is through posing another, time-honored Baltimore question: WWJRD? (What Would James Rouse Do?) Having failed to find a way to communicate with the dead by deadline, I did the next best thing and asked Lehr Jackson, the local urban retail visionary who figured out for Rouse how to make Harborplace’s commercial space work.

Jackson agreed that, whatever Rouse would have done, it would not have resembled this.

“It’s like an alien came and landed in Baltimore,” Jackson said. “It’s totally out of context with everything else that’s been designed. Just to be out of scale for out-of-scale’s sake is the wrong premise.”

Instead, Jackson envisioned a design that could have incorporated all of the uses that ARC Wheeler wanted, but fit in much better with its surroundings. He would have made a “C-shaped courtyard facing the water” and started along Light Street with a seven-story structure with a strong retail component that would have then scaled up with a mix of office and residential in either one large tower or two or three smaller towers going back towards Charles Street. As he talks, one can picture tourists stumbling out from their meals at Phillips and finding an inviting courtyard across the street, enticed to cross the six-lane highway to see what was on the other side, perhaps even wandering on towards Otterbein and Federal Hill.

But alas, the real-life development will do little to attract the tourists, or make more people “believe” in Baltimore. Baltimore’s development officials have been congratulating themselves in the press for having demonstrated Baltimore’s arrival in the league of real cities by landing a Stern tower. But the building just cements the second-rate status of downtown Baltimore: While the established major cities get Stern’s good work, like 10 Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Baltimore gets this cookie-cutter incongruous hulk.

It may be folly to expect downtown to drive Baltimore’s future in the first place: The city will live or die in its neighborhoods, at the corner where I used to live at Fort and Light and thousands of corners like it. Still, the McCormick site could have been, and perhaps still can be, done better. While the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) granted conceptual approval in February 2006, the site’s developers at press time were still tinkering with details of the building, and UDARP needs to give final approval before the building goes up. Details matter in design, and UDARP would be well-advised to look carefully at how the tower will fit into the city’s streetscape and skyline before granting final approval.

—Adam Gordon is cofounder and editor-in-chief of the The Next American City (www.americancity.org). He lived in South Baltimore and Charles Village from 2000 to 2003, while working for the Baltimore Regional Partnership.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:53 AM   #1537
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The new Loyola College stadium and sports complex up 83 is slated to open in two years. I saw some renderings while attending the womens' lacrosse game today and it looks fantastic.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:55 AM   #1538
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^Really snappy photos 30Floors!

I don't think Druid Park Lake Drive counts (yet). I think alot of people on this board forget about NW Baltimore, there are lots of apartment houses and modest sized apartment houses. Upper Park Heights has lots of stuff.

Nate
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 05:59 AM   #1539
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THE RACE FOR RESIDENTS: D.C. and Baltimore Go Head to Head

by Elizabeth A. Evitts

The advertisements started popping up over a year ago in D.C. newspapers and Metro stations: full-color spreads featuring gorgeous Baltimore brownstones and luxury apartments, emblazoned with slogans like, "You thought you'd never afford something this great in D.C. You were right," and "Happiness is measured in square feet." Another pictured young, well-dressed city dwellers sipping wine at a sidewalk cafŽ, while yet another showed a gracious stone manor with the caption, "Live like a Diplomat. Soon you'll think you can park wherever you please."

The ads are just one component of a vigorous marketing initiative driven by Live Baltimore Home Center, a non-profit agency located in downtown Baltimore. The campaign specifically targets young D.C. commuters, seeking to lure them north with the promise of a cosmopolitan lifestyle at an affordable price. The Live Baltimore campaign, coupled with other pro-Baltimore marketing efforts, projects a new image for downtown Baltimore-one of luxury lofts and vibrant street life. The carefully placed publicity blitz realized rapid results, and in the fall of 2002, The New York Times and The Washington Post both reported that Washington professionals were migrating to Baltimore.

Baltimore's southern neighbor took notice. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams resolved to dispel the image that his city is inaccessible and overpriced, and he charged his economic development team to create a marketing plan espousing the benefits of city living. When the D.C. campaign went public in June 2003, it prompted the city's gay newspaper, the Washington Blade, to report that "an ongoing battle pitting Baltimore against Washington, D.C., for upscale homeowners is hitting the region with a vengeance."

That battle is heating up as Baltimore and D.C. vie for the same pool of potential residents through aggressive campaigns set on reframing beleaguered downtown neighborhoods and traditionally corporate centers as vibrant, accessible residential cores. The endeavor not only represents a shift in the traditional economic development tactics of these cities, it also signals a possible transformation in the role of downtowns and suggests a possible reshaping of the urban middle class.

Redefining Downtown

Traditionally corporate downtowns in cities like Baltimore have long suffered an exodus of business. The 1997 merger of Alex. Brown, Baltimore's oldest and most prestigious financial house, with Bankers Trust of New York dealt a major blow to a city struggling to retain corporate headquarters. The 200-year old company, a bastion of Baltimore business, had survived the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904; it could not, however, survive the economic shifts of the late 20th century. Outside enterprises gobbled up local companies, and the city continued its evolution into a branch town, a feeder market for corporations like Legg Mason and T. Rowe Price, who headquartered the lion's share of employees elsewhere. Other companies quit Baltimore's Central Business District for sprawling office parks in the suburbs, leaving an expanse of vacated office space in their wake.

After the announcement of the Alex. Brown merger, the Baltimore Business Journal called for creative solutions. The city had already weathered the dismantling of its manufacturing base; now it appeared the corporate base was following suit. "Without warning, market forces can propel even the most stalwart companies beyond Baltimore's boundaries," the Journal noted in April of 1997. "As this stunning piece of news illustrates, it's not enough for economic development efforts to concentrate on preserving the status quo." The op-ed went on to suggest that Baltimore "nurture and develop new companies and emerging industries" like software and telecommunications.

At the time the Baltimore Business Journal published that opinion, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore was already looking to nurture a novel enterprise for downtown. They chose the "emerging industry" of attracting new residents. The Partnership is a nonprofit corporation working in concert with area businesses and local government to foster downtown's economic vitality. The organization branched out from traditional commercial and corporate development efforts when it established the Downtown Baltimore Housing Initiative. Its newly formed Downtown Housing Council (DHC) commissioned a feasibility study examining the reclamation of empty office buildings for market-rate housing. In a city known for its horizontal row houses and mid-rise buildings, the idea of vertical high-rise living in a struggling downtown with little job growth seemed more than risky: it seemed almost laughable. The study concluded that such development would need major city subsidies and suggested that, even with incentives, downtown could only hope for low-income rentals.

The DHC forged ahead anyway and worked to pass state legislation that bundled a set of incentives, including tax abatements, gap financing, and bond funds, meant to fuel renovations. The government along with private investors invested some $280 million to reclaim Baltimore's fallow corporate buildings for market-rate and luxury living centers. Redwood Towers, an early office conversion in a stately, privately developed high-rise on Baltimore's West Side opened in January 2000 with the help of, government subsidies created by the DHC. The apartments leased in one-third of the expected time and at rents fifteen percent higher than projected.

Redwood Towers was just the tip of the iceberg. When private developer David Hillman entered Baltimore in the late '90s, he debunked the idea that major incentives were needed to spur downtown conversions. Hillman, CEO of Southern Management Corporation of Vienna, Virginia, started renovating buildings into luxury apartments, and today his company leases 1,800 renovated units in the city center. Residential investment continued to dominate projects in Baltimore's Central Business District last year, spurring local newspapers to proclaim "Baltimore's second Renaissance." Marketing materials began referring to the area as City Center, reminiscent of Philadelphia's wildly successful Center City. (While Philadelphia as a whole lost 24 percent of its population since 1960, its Center City core grew by 55 percent.)

Washington, D.C., did not experience the same exodus of business to its downtown. In fact, its corporate occupancy rate remains high. D.C.'s challenge is that it lacks a tax base to support residential needs and infrastructure. A federal enclave, D.C. cannot tax many of its landowners and non-profit residents. Some 572,000 people live in the city, but only about 275,000 of those contribute tax dollars. During the weekday, an inrush of workers nearly doubles D.C.'s population to one million people. "It means [during the weekday] 400,000 people use our services-drive our streets, use our trash cans. And all that stuff has to be paid for to maintain," says Chris Bender, Director of Communications for the D.C. Office of Planning and Economic Development. "In terms of marketing the city and recruiting residents, we have to try to combat the structural imbalance."

Where cities used to chase smokestacks and corporations, they are increasingly chasing people. In their book Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival (2000), Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio argue that the inner city is rebounding and that "the shift is discernable in enough places to unsettle longstanding assumptions about the future of older urban communities." Downtowns, they observe, are adapting with the times, as evidenced by the metamorphosis of corporate buildings into housing. "The accelerating conversion of downtown office space to apartments shows that a 'new best use' is still emerging-and drawing robust demand."

"When I first started [my job] five or six years ago, the economic development agenda was always about getting the facilities to get the critical mass," Bender says. "Now it's become more service-oriented. Our main objective is to improve the quality of life. The way we do it is to get new residents who then attract the restaurants and retail and bring in taxes," Bender adds.

The Race for Residents, Phase One:

Marketing a Hip Image

Tracy Gosson is a marketing barracuda. Sharp and polished, the executive director of the nonprofit Live Baltimore Home Center can spit out housing stats and neighborhood profiles like a seasoned real estate agent. Gosson and others like her in cities across the country bet that a shift in population back to the heart of downtown is imminent as young adults-weaned on mini-malls and tract housing-opt for the cultural cache of urban living. The burgeoning marketing trend is evident in enough places that USA Today recently reported how "mid-size cities get hip to attract professionals."

Live Baltimore, which is supported in part by city and foundation grant money, zeroed in on a very specific segment of this young population: the D.C. commuter. The Morris Goldseker Foundation helped fund a $65,000 ad campaign targeting capital region workers trapped in traffic. For the same amount of time it takes to traverse the Capital Beltway during rush hour, commuters could travel on a MARC train from Baltimore.

Initially, taking Baltimore City head to head with D.C. seemed a precarious venture. Baltimore has a parochial image, while D.C. is considered its polished and sophisticated neighbor. Housing stock, amenities, and median sales and rental prices vary greatly between the two cities. The average sales price in D.C. is $325,000, the average in Baltimore $105,000. Rental rates exhibit a similar disparity. For Gosson, that's exactly the point. "D.C. is an interesting place," she says. "If you really want D.C., you'll stay there." More and more, however, Gosson is finding a market for a city like Baltimore. "It's shocking that people with an income of $80,000 can barely afford rent [in D.C.]," she says.

The relatively small campaign sparked major media attention in the fall of 2002. Reporter Carla Anderson inked a piece in the Philadelphia Daily News under the headline, "Need an example of the kind of [housing] effort I'm talking about? Look at Baltimore." A New York Times story about the campaign prompted young D.C. lawyer, Michael Murphy, to buy in Baltimore. "I realized people were going to hear what was going on," Murphy told The Baltimore Sun in October of last year. "I didn't want all the cool houses to be taken."

Fifty miles south, D.C. launched a counterattack. The Brookings Institution recently reported that one million new people would relocate to the greater D.C. region over the next decade, and Mayor Anthony Williams charged his economic development staff with capturing 100,000 of those residents. About 70 percent of D.C.'s workers commute from outlying suburbs, and the city focused on the same dissatisfied professionals targeted by Baltimore. The Mayor committed $300,000 to the first year of the initiative with an emphasis placed on promoting the 3,000 rental and condo units available downtown. "We see downtown as a neighborhood-not just a place where apartments are sprinkled among offices," Bender says. "There are segments of the population who want to get up on Saturday, not drive, point in a direction and be able to find what they want. In the first and second year of the campaign, these are the people we're targeting because these are the people most likely to pick up and move."

While the D.C. Metropolitan area ranked high in Richard Florida's much-touted book, The Rise of the Creative Class, selling city living to young professionals is an uphill battle. "People go to the Eastern Market [a popular urban bazaar near Capitol Hill] on a Saturday, and they wander off the main street and see a house that's for sale for $600,000, and they think, 'Oh my god, I can't live here,'" Bender says. "We really need to educate people about the city." D.C.'s political circles wondered how it could be done. Washington Post reporter David Nakamura asked, "How can a city whose reputation once made it a national punch line turn around its public image?"

The D.C. Office of Planning and Economic Development answered by joining forces with the D.C. Downtown Business Improvement District, Washington D.C. Marketing Center, and TCI Companies, an event planner, to come up with a branding message and a logo. They looked at marketing efforts in other cities, including Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, and Portland, and in June the new city slogan went live: "city living, dc style!" set in a modish lowercase font. "When people hear about this campaign, their first reaction is 'isn't it expensive to live in D.C.?'" Bender says. "Before it was a statement. At least it's a question now."

Hard numbers have begun to support the anecdotal claim that people are choosing downtown living. At a time of zero job growth and economic downturn, Baltimore's new apartments managed to lease at a faster clip than anticipated, mostly to the young, single households the city had been hoping to capture. Fourteen obsolete buildings were renovated, and over the past two years, a stable rental market quickly absorbed nearly 800 new units. "We went to Baltimore because it was cheap," Hillman says. "Now, you pick up every trade magazine and you see that Baltimore is the place to develop."

Still, these cities still have a long way to go before declaring downtown redevelopment a success. While restaurants were downtown Baltimore's largest business growth in 2002, many services-like markets, Laundromats, and daycare-do not yet exist. "Trying to get a grocery store is unbelievable," Hillman says. "I may have to open my own."

The Race for Residents, Phase Two:

The New Middle Class

As both cities recognize, competing for downtown renters has its limits. Marketing to "low cost" residents-those who can easily plug into a city and do not rely on government subsidies or, for that matter, services like the public schools-represents a crucial first step.. "Right now what we have to offer is a lot of the physical things that make up the great structure of the city," Bender says. "That's fairly easy for us to market."

But Bender realizes that unless D.C. translates the growing tax revenue from downtown redevelopment into better public services, the downtown renaissance will not expand into broader city-wide success. "Where it's harder, is with the people looking at the social services, like schools," Bender says. Hillman echoes this assessment:

"I don't know that the people renting these apartments are going to be permanent," Hillman says about Baltimore. "I don't think they're putting down roots. [Baltimore has] to figure out how to provide decent schools and paved roads."

While Live Baltimore has successfully marketed the city as a whole and placed homeowners in neighborhoods surrounding downtown, many of these buyers are couples without children. Decent schools will not only be important to turning the new elite downtowners from urban renters to urban owners, and in retaining those young homebuyers as they grow into parenthood, but also in keeping both cities' burgeoning immigrant populations from moving to the suburbs. Hispanics, dubbed the soccer moms of the 2000 presidential campaign for their increasing assimilation and voting power, are Live Baltimore's next target. "I'm going after Latino families who will start small businesses and grow families here," Gosson says.

D.C. has similar plans. "We have to tell people about the housing stock and connect people with the right information," Bender says. Some of that information targets immigrants and low- to middle-income families, who can help stabilize city neighborhoods outside of downtown through homeownership. Bender plans, for example, to promote the fact that Section 8 vouchers can be used for a down payment on a house.

While parts of downtown recast themselves as upscale bedroom communities, the city as a whole will need to develop an integrated vision to support these new, economically and racially diverse residents. It cannot rely on luxury rental and housing tax dollars as a deus ex machina to spur other services. Unless the Baltimore and D.C. governments spend their enlarged tax coffers wisely, they will capture the suddenly easy market of downtown rentals-but nothing more. But it remains to be seen whether either city will undertake the tough work of rebuilding schools and streetscaping neighborhoods of modest single-family homes with the vigor that they have pursued tax breaks for office-to-apartment conversions downtown.

Potemkin City, Again?

In the 1970s and '80s, Baltimore funneled federal grants and state subsidies into drawing tourists to its Inner Harbor while inner-city neighborhoods crumbled. Joel Kotkin called the result a "Potemkin City." Washington similarly spent much of the last half-century focused on flashy and expensive urban renewal projects like L'Enfant Plaza.

The urban rental developments represent the next logical step in this strategy of grabbing the low-hanging fruit. All of the sudden a market exists for downtown middle-class living-much as all of the sudden in the 1970s a market existed for urban theme park tourism. Both cities have chosen, quite rationally, to ride this wave. But when the dust clears, the city that wins the competition will be the one that uses this momentary opportunity to raise the tax dollars that leverage redevelopment of the broad middle-class neighborhoods further from downtown. Each city should choose its public policies wisely. The kind of gold rush that downtown urban rentals represent, like the gold rush that federal urban renewal money represented a few decades ago, likely will not come again anytime soon.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 06:03 AM   #1540
getontrac
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Rouse was one of those guys who had a lot of good intents and efforts, but probably did more wrong things than right, urbanistically (is that a word?). In part, it was a byproduct of the era.

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