A group of lawyers and business partners are banking on the draw of the Anne Arundel County courthouse and the revitalization of a downtown Annapolis commercial corridor to keep their new office building full.
They already have leased about three-quarters of their 23,500-square-foot building at 125 West St., an address that also serves as the building's name.
Six partners of the Annapolis law firm Council, Baradel, Kosmerl and Nolan, along with several other investors, own the $2.8 million project.
The law firm moved from its rented office in Annapolis' Eastport section in May to 125 West, where it occupies the fourth floor and part of the third, said James P. Nolan, an attorney with the firm, which specializes in civil litigation and business and real estate law.
The four-story building sits on what used to be an old laundry business, three town houses and a vacant lot, across the street from Loews Annapolis Hotel. It is near a couple of other new office buildings along West Street, a congested corridor of new structures, older shops and houses that is the focus of a revitalization effort in the state capital.
"West Street is basically the last part of Annapolis that needs development or that could be developed," Nolan said.
The building also is within walking distance of the current county Circuit Court on Church Circle, near the State House. It's even closer to the proposed site of a new courthouse that would be built near the Arundel Center county government headquarters on Calvert Street.
Nolan hopes that 125 West's location will attract lawyers and others whose businesses require them to make frequent trips to the courthouse.
Richard S. Neville of EPS Associates Inc., the developer, said workers finished the building in March. To outsiders, however, the structure appeared to have been completed months before that.
The building's exterior was finished in 1989 "as a marketing tool to give the impression that the building was more complete than it was," Neville said.
Such marketing tools, however, may contribute to the impression that office space is filling up more slowly in the Annapolis area and other parts of Anne Arundel County than it actually is.
Neville maintained that the commercial real estate market is healthy, although renters are taking longer to shop for office space and negotiate contracts.
"It's a perceived soft market, but everything is getting leased up," Neville said. "It's been slower negotiating because it is a buyers' market. Instead of negotiating a lease in two months, it may take four months."
Nolan laments that the Annapolis city government has not yet built a parking garage in the downtown area, even though it adopted a plan several years ago calling for just such a solution to the local parking crunch.
125 West has only 23 parking spaces on site but uses a nearby lot.
City Central Services Director Emory Harrison said Annapolis expects to begin building a $5.5 million, 510-space public parking garage tucked behind the Arundel Center in late summer.
The garage should answer the complaints of some downtown merchants, who contend that the dearth of city parking has given an edge to competitors outside Annapolis.
In another effort to promote the rebirth of the West Street commercial district, the city is building a tiny park at the former site of an auto shop at the triangular junction of West Street, Spa Road and Taylor Avenue.
The following are some commercial real estate transactions:
* Perfect Scents, a perfume sale company, has leased 1,300 square feet of space at 200 E. Joppa Road, according to Casey & Associates.
* Winchester Carton/Rock-Tenn Co. has leased 29,920 square feet of space at Marley Neck Industrial Park, according to Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services.