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Lets hope this really gets this project moving :)

Building's sale may inspire new lease on west-side life
Developers eager to see Abell property rehabbed
By Jill Rosen
Sun Staff
Originally published April 10, 2005

A once-grand building, whose deteriorating facade was symbolic of people's doubts in Baltimore's west-side redevelopment efforts, is finally poised for restoration.
A developer has purchased the long-neglected Abell Building, an architectural stunner that, despite sitting across the street from the renovated Hippodrome Theatre and the multimillion-dollar Centerpoint retail and residential complex, has withered as the neighborhood prospered.

PMC Property Group, a developer known for converting old buildings into apartments in cities along the East Coast, has purchased the Abell for $1.3 million from Rockville-based David & Annie Abrams Realty.

Steven Bloom, the company's Baltimore partner, said PMC plans to put retail, such as restaurants or a coffee shop, on the first level of the five-story building and 35 to 40 apartments or condominiums upstairs. PMC hopes to finish the project within a year.

"I've been looking at the Abell Building for a few years and noticed it wasn't getting done while everything else was getting done around it," Bloom said. "It was just crying for attention."

The Abell's sale and impending redevelopment is gratifying for west-side boosters and a relief for business leaders who had crossed their fingers last year when the Hippodrome reopened, hoping it would catalyze more rehab projects in the area.


A dubious sight

When the sparkling new theater seemingly couldn't jump-start the redevelopment of the building right across the street, doubts mounted as to what effect it could have on the rest of the neighborhood.

Even as theatergoers flocked to Eutaw Street for The Producers and Hairspray, tree-like weeds sprouted through the Abell's upper-level windows and water from burst pipes gushed and pooled in the basement.

"It just created an air of uncertainly," said Ron Kreitner, executive director of West Side Renaissance. "It failed to move forward and became more and more of an eyesore and a detriment."

"To walk out of the Hippodrome and see that building was a huge shame," said J. Kirby Fowler Jr., president of the Downtown Partnership.

But, Fowler added, the planned renovation renews his confidence in the block and the area.

"It's a new day for the Abell Building," Fowler said, "and it's going to accelerate redevelopment of the west side."

Arunah S. Abell, founder of The Sun, commissioned George A. Frederick, the architect for Baltimore's City Hall, to design the building in the mid-1870s. Abell built the project speculatively, hoping to lure companies involved in the garment industry.

Over its more than 130 years, an array of tenants have called the Abell home. They include, according to the book Baltimore's Cast-Iron Buildings and Architectural Ironwork, a cigar business, a saddle and harness maker, a confectionery, a printer and scores of insurance brokers.

Despite extreme deterioration, the building's intricate brickwork, white marble trim and arched windows still convey the grandeur of a time gone by. According to The Architecture of Baltimore, the Abell, which covers an entire block, is the "finest surviving warehouse from the period."


'Many false starts'

The family of Michael H. Abrams has owned the Abell since 1957. It has been vacant since the last clothing tenant packed up a few years ago. The Abrams family could not be reached for comment.

In 1997, hoping to spur residential development downtown, the city offered a package of incentives tied to converting various properties - the Abell among them - into apartments.

The incentives apparently weren't enticement enough. In 2002, despite Abrams' promises to renovate, business leaders began pressuring the city to condemn the property and seize it, figuring if the owner wouldn't fix it, someone should.

"It's been frustrating," Fowler said. "There had been many false starts."

The new developer's track record, however, seems to be setting people's minds at ease.

PMC has earned a reputation renovating old buildings in a handful of Eastern states but primarily in Philadelphia - the company used to be called Philadelphia Management Co.

Locally, PMC has redeveloped the Dulaney Valley Apartments, a 256-unit garden apartment complex in Towson, and is refurbishing the former National Enamel & Stamping Co. factory in South Baltimore into 190 apartments.

The company finances its projects with Lubert-Adler, a real estate private equity firm. It will use no city money to buy the Abell, only the federal and state historic tax credits that developers who renovate historic properties to certain specifications are eligible for, Bloom said.

Those credentials impress Walter D. Pinkard Jr., chairman of the Hippodrome Foundation board of directors.

"Buying is one thing," Pinkard said. "They have a capital partner to make things happen. They have the cash."

Other west-side businesses, small and large, are eager to see the Abell saved.

Hippodrome Hatters owner Judy Boulmetis is one of them.

"We'll be glad when the construction is finished, the sidewalk is open and people can enjoy the beauty of the building," she said.

Tom Bozzuto, whose company manages Centerpoint, the apartment and retail complex under construction a block away, said the sooner the derelict building can be cleaned up, the better off the area will be.

"There's no doubt there are people who would choose not to rent at Centerpoint because the nearby property is derelict. There's no doubt," he said. "It's a question of confidence. You need to feel secure, and you want to feel you're in a place that's changing."

Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said that in trying to spark redevelopment momentum in a struggling area like downtown's west side, it's important for people to see continuing improvement.

Until now, he said, the Abell Building hasn't helped.

"When people left the Hippodrome, they should have been seeing all the promise. But they were seeing a blemish," he said.

But with the potential now for the Abell Building to make an entirely different type of statement, Fry doesn't want to take any chances with that fragile momentum.

"We should be celebrating this," he said, "but at the same time making sure that it moves forward with all due speed."
 

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So I was driving south on 95 coming up towards the McHenry tunnel today and they do in fact have the crane up for Canton Crossing. Its a huge crane. I knew where the site was but I hadn't put together how close to 95 its really going to be.

This is going to be a very prominant sight and match up well with Brewer's Hill giving us a nice new skyline to view. I can't wait to see it all done!





 

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jaysonjaz said:
So I was driving south on 95 coming up towards the McHenry tunnel today and they do in fact have the crane up for Canton Crossing. Its a huge crane. I knew where the site was but I hadn't put together how close to 95 its really going to be.

This is going to be a very prominant sight and match up well with Brewer's Hill giving us a nice new skyline to view. I can't wait to see it all done!
On Sunday night...while driving back to DC...I took my usual detour through Baltimore. (Nowadays with that $2 toll, if I'm not in a hurry, I never take the tunnel.)

I also spotted the Canton Crossing crane. It's fairly tall...but the real WOW-crane is Fells Point. It has a boom that seems to reach more than two hundred feet.

Another note, not sure if it's simply the city doing some conduit work, but the intersection of Calvert and Lombard streets is dug-up. I wonder if it's related prep-work for the CityScape project?
 

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"Another note, not sure if it's simply the city doing some conduit work, but the intersection of Calvert and Lombard streets is dug-up. I wonder if it's related prep-work for the CityScape project?"

I hope it is. :)

In other news:


Constellation to build plant in Canton
Alan Zibel
Staff
Constellation Energy Group Inc., the Baltimore-based energy firm, will construct and manage an $18.8 million heating, cooling and backup power plant for a major waterfront development in the city's booming Canton neighborhood.


The deal brings together two major players in the Baltimore business community: Constellation and Edwin F. Hale Sr., a real estate developer and CEO of First Mariner Bancorp.

Constellation said it signed a contract with Hale to provide chilled water for use in air conditioners, hot water and emergency backup power to serve Hale's $100 million Canton Crossing project.

Constellation's plant is slated to serve seven to eight buildings with 1.5 million square feet of office, hotel, residential and retail space slated on the Canton waterfront. Construction on the plant is scheduled to start in September and finish by next March.

Greg Jarosinski, president of Constellation's projects and services group, said the deal is the fourth energy plant built and operated by the company. The previous three were in Nashville, at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field and in Las Vegas, he said.

While Hale will own the plant, Constellation will build it and maintain it under a 20-year agreement. Constellation says this arrangement means it has the incentive to install high-quality, high-efficiency equipment. By contract, the performance of that equipment is guaranteed, Jarosinski said.

"In year 20 we guarantee it will be running as efficiently as on year one," he said.

Jarosinski said his division is "definitely a growth area" for the company. With volatile energy prices, people don't have the sophistication "to keep track of what's going on in the energy market," he said. They are looking for experienced energy managers.

Hale could not be reached for comment. In a statement, he called the deal "a great fit among companies committed to advancing our regional economy."



© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.
 

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McCormick site eyed for condos
Philly firm considers St. Regis hotel, residences
Heather Harlan
Staff
ARC Wheeler LLC of Philadelphia is scoping out the former McCormick spice factory site in downtown Baltimore for a St. Regis hotel, condominium and retail development, real estate sources close to the deal said this week.


The property -- now a surface parking lot at the corner of Light and Conway streets -- is considered one of the last remaining real estate gems along Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Real estate sources said real estate developer ARC Wheeler is prepared to pump $400 million into project costs alone. It was unclear this week whether a land sale had been completed, or a due diligence period was continuing.

Bill Wheeler, managing partner with ARC Wheeler, said it was premature to talk about the pending deal for the site. The developer said he would likely have more to discuss in "about a week." Speaking in general terms, Wheeler said his company has undertaken a condo project at 10 Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia and is interested in Baltimore's market.

State property records still show "Allright Corps" of Nashville, Tenn., as the owner of the lot between the Harbor Court Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Baltimore. The Baltimore Business Journal first reported in July 2003 that Allright, known as Central Parking Corp., put the site on the market shortly after buying the undeveloped parcel from the Rouse Co. for $16 million.

When asked about the potential sale to the Philadelphia company, Chris Sherman, Central Parking's general manager for the Baltimore area, said, "I don't know what the current status of that is." He referred all calls to Biff Porter, a senior vice president for Central Parking in Nashville, Tenn.

"As a public company, I don't divulge anything," Porter said when asked about the future of the Baltimore site.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., and Andrew B. Frank, vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said they did not have any knowledge of the deal. But Brodie said the idea sounded "interesting."

The site -- near Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Baltimore Convention Center -- has suffered from a lot of false starts. At one point, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos controlled the property and planned to build a hotel there. But that proposal never materialized.

A St. Regis spokeswoman could not be reached Thursday. St. Regis Hotels & Resorts released a statement on Feb. 22, saying the luxury chain's parent company, Starwood, plans to open 70 new hotels in the next two years. In places such as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and San Francisco, the proposals include both hotels and condos under "the St. Regis Hotel & Residences" brand.

Baltimore's hot real estate market has recently attracted the attention of numerous luxury hotel chains. The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts is building a sprawling condo complex off Key Highway. And Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has proposed a hotel and condos at Harbor East, off President Street. Both are waterfront sites.


Werner Kunz, general manager of the Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore, said this week that he did not know about plans for another luxury hotel, even a boutique one.

"This is terrible not only for me, but for the city," Kunz said. "We need to downscale, not upscale."

Kunz argued that Baltimore will not see a boost in convention business, if there are too many luxury hotels. The city, he said, will be overlooked because it is "too expensive."

Even still, city leaders believe the market is there on the condo end. Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc. predicts there is at least 10 years worth of demand -- from young urban professionals and baby boomers -- for condos.


Well? What do you guys think about these plans?

:)
 

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When I e-mailed ARC Wheeler LLC representatives about this here is what they said to me:

Hi Steve: We just got involved in the project and have not put together our program. Stay in touch and a few months down the road we will be happy to report back.

Thanks

Hal Wheeler

Sounds pretty good. :)
 

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hi guys....a buddy of mine told me that he was downtown and noticed the sign announcing the leasing of the Zenith at the parcel where the tower is to be built...im walking over there today to confirm.
 

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waj0527 said:
hi guys....a buddy of mine told me that he was downtown and noticed the sign announcing the leasing of the Zenith at the parcel where the tower is to be built...im walking over there today to confirm.
While I certainly wouldnt want to deprive you of any exercise.. I can tell you that as of last nite the only sign up there just has a picture of the building and it just says "Zenith" with a catchy little phrase after that.

As for the new Mccormick site, I would partially agree with the general manager of the Harbor Court Hotel that we could definately use some lower end hotels in the area. He does bring up a good point that if everything is ultra luxury, then most of the normal people won't afford it. That being said, this is a prime location and whatever needs to be done to develop it should be done.
 

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Going through a backlog of some relatively recent reading, and noted an article from the Thursday, March 31, 2005 issue of the Sunpapers which I don't recall seeing mentioned here... The article "Revenue trends show promising upswing" was by Eric Siegel (Urban Chronicle). Thrust of the article is that after years of fiscal problems, things appear to be improving for the city. In the preliminary budget draft...property tax receipts...which are the city's largest single source of funds (making up about 30 percent of the city's operating budget) are projected to be up about 4 percent, or nearly $23 million, over the current year. On top of that, income tax collections, which account for 10 percent of the city budget are also up...about 9 percent over the original budget estimate. Full article
 

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jaysonjaz said:
As for the new Mccormick site, I would partially agree with the general manager of the Harbor Court Hotel that we could definately use some lower end hotels in the area. He does bring up a good point that if everything is ultra luxury, then most of the normal people won't afford it. That being said, this is a prime location and whatever needs to be done to develop it should be done.
There are many moderate hotels near the inner harbor; Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Days Inn, Courtyard, Radisson, Clarion. They may not be on the waterfront, but there is no affirmative action in real estate. The best properties are for the luxurious and rich hotels, the further you get from the attraction the more moderate it gets. If you want a cheap motel, try Route 40. The guy from Harbor Court is just trying to protect his lock on the market. They wouldn't be building 4 and 5 star hotels if people were not coming.
 

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I want a new tallest!

"Real estate sources said real estate developer ARC Wheeler is prepared to pump $400 million into project costs alone." :eek2: :eek2:

MAN! What scale of project are they conceiving if they are ready to "pump $400 million into project costs alone"??? :? :? :?

Just playing the, "guessing game", I'll say it sounds like a very large scale project there. :D

If you guys were to guess, what could, would, or should we expect at this location with all that $$$ going into it?
A project, that could very well reach well over the 1/2 BILLION dollar mark, at the McCormick site could quite possibly reach into the 600 or 700 ft. plateau. Condos AND a hotel. St. Regis is a very nice name brand that would give Baltimore some more international clout. Think about it. 4 Seasons, Ritz and the St. Regis. :) Then that is it. No more 5 star hotel/residences. Then bring on the other targeted public. Bring on the Westins and the other Marriotts. :D That's my take on this, ....... so far. ;)
 

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Just think it took $400 million to build the bloomberg tower, if I'm not mistaken the parcel built on cost around 100 million compared to 6-10 for the Conway site.So you could build a much taller building with 400 million. That's a lot of money I'm guessing that the retail portion would have a mall like atmosphere. The one light street tower cost around one half that so i can just imagine.
 

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Man, what great location to have a new tallest. :D
There or 300 east pratt or one light street. Or, Harbor Point! ;) ;) ;)
 

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StevenW said:
Man, what great location to have a new tallest. :D
There or 300 east pratt or one light street. Or, Harbor Point! ;) ;) ;)

ahh yes.. harbor point definately the most exciting proposal around...

I was looking it up on google and found this website..
http://www.eekarchitects.com/indprj...=216&projectid=48937&categoryname=Waterfronts

Check out this model that they did.. this is amazing when you consider this is simply from Harbor East to Fells Point.. this will be dramatically different than it was even 2 years ago..


WOW :yes:
 
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