Federal Crescent Rising

September 15, 1990

Worthy of great celebration is the U.S. General Services Administration's decision to locate a new 11-story federal office building at the corner of Baltimore and Howard streets. The site is in the middle of a ghost town that used to be Baltimore's premier shopping district. With some 1,300 federal workers trekking there by March 1992, the area will get a vast injection of energy and a new lease on life.

But that is not all. The developers of the $37-million "City Crescent" project -- the first of a cluster eventually encompassing another major office building as well as a 224-unit apartment complex atop a 750-space garage -- are black. Over more than a decade, William L. Adams' and Theo Rodgers' A & R Development Co. and Otis Warren's real estate firm have forged a reputation as builders of everything from housing for the elderly to upscale townhouses. "The City Crescent" is their biggest venture so far and signals their entry to office construction. It marks the first time a black company is building a showcase project downtown. With fewer than 545 days until desired occupancy, the federal office building will be built on an extremely tight schedule.

"This is a milestone," says Mr. Warren. We share his feeling of elation. The development site is two blocks from the new Camden Yards stadium and directly on the forthcoming 27-mile light-rail route that will link Glen Burnie with Hunt Valley. "The City Crescent" will be a highly visible monument for black progress and achievement.

To an area which has remained blighted ever since the department stores closed their doors, "The City Crescent" promises renewal. With the new Veterans' Administration hospital going up on Greene Street, a redevelopment bridge is beginning to connect the expanding University of Maryland complex to the downtown office and commercial core. The federal building should boost Lexington Market and increase redevelopment interest in the many vacant or underutilized buildings. We hope sensitive developers can be found for the recently closed Hippodrome theater and the architecturally significant iron buildings along Fayette and Baltimore streets.

The arrival of the new federal office building should lead to a frank re-evaluation of the Baltimore Arena. That entertainment and exhibit forum has outlived its competitiveness. As the Howard Street corridor returns to life, development alternatives should be weighed.

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