Approval given for One Light Street, office tower planned as tallest in city

September 12, 1990|By Edward Gunts

The Trammell Crow Co. has received the zoning variance it was seeking to build the city's tallest building, a 44-story office tower called One Light Street on the current site of the vacant Southern Hotel.

Gilbert Rubin, executive director of Baltimore's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, said his office notified the developers this week that their request for a zoning variance had been granted.

The decision was based primarily on the belief that the $180 million to $190 million building "would be an asset to the downtown community and would add to the tax base," Mr. Rubin said. "It's certainly a better use than what's there at present -- a building that has been vacant for the past 20 years."

Designed to contain 750,000 square feet of space and 446 parking spaces on the block bounded by Light, Redwood, Grant and Baltimore streets, the building would be 54 percent larger than Baltimore's zoning code allows. Under city law, a developer may construct a building that is up to 75 percent larger than the zoning code allows if the zoning board grants a variance.

Dirk Mosis, partner in charge of Trammell Crow's Baltimore office, said at a public hearing last week that his company requested the variance as part of the building permit process but wouldn't begin construction until tenants were identified for a sizable portion of the building.

He said he has "handshake commitments" from a couple of prospective tenants to lease space but is not in a position to name them. He said he would like to begin construction in time to open the building by late 1993 or early 1994.

At a zoning board meeting yesterday, another developer's request for a zoning variance that would permit expansion of the office tower known as 6 St. Paul Centre drew opposition from the owners of two neighboring office buildings.

S/A Associates of New York, the owners of 6 St. Paul Centre, sought permission to enlarge the 29-story building by "squaring off" the tower on floors 17 to 23 so those floors have the same amount of space as do floors one to 16.

The tower now "steps back" above the 16th floor on the west side so that each level above the 16th is smaller than the levels below. The proposed construction would give the building 26,520 square feet of additional space.

The plan drew opposition from Vincent Hock, vice president for administration and general counsel of American Trading Real Estate Properties Inc., the owners of the W.R. Grace and Co. building at the northeast corner of Baltimore and Charles streets and the Blaustein Building at the southeast corner of Charles and Fayette streets.

Both buildings abut 6 St. Paul Centre, and Mr. Hock said his company was worried about the extent to which construction activity would block access to American Trading's properties.

He also said some office tenants' views toward the harbor from the Blaustein Building would be blocked by the proposed addition.

Thomas Biddison, an attorney for S/A Associates, said the idea of adding space on floors 17 through 23 came out of the owners' efforts to lease the building to the U.S. General Services Administration. Federal officials have since selected another downtown site -- an 11-story building planned by developers Otis Warren and Theo Rodgers for the southwest corner of Baltimore and Howard streets -- where they want to lease 250,000 square feet of space for a variety of federal agencies.

Mr. Biddison said he did not know how soon his clients would proceed with the proposed expansion if the zoning variance was approved, now that the federal agencies are going elsewhere. He said they are seeking the variance as a way of "keeping their options open" in leasing the 340,000-square-foot building, which is 85 percent vacant.

Gia Blattermann, chairman of the zoning board, said its members will decide whether to grant the variance in the next seven to 10 days.

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