Controversial office tower gains key OK

June 12, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Real estate developer Leonard Attman won key city approval last night in his campaign to build a controversial office building that would overhang the sidewalk at the corner of Charles and Redwood streets.

The city planning commission gave its blessing to a city council bill that would authorize selling Mr. Attman the air rights needed to build his proposed 29-story building.

Mr. Attman has been trying to get his building approved since 1990, but has been blocked because his plans called for condemning part of Redwood Street to construct a larger building. The city refused to sell the street bed, so the developer scaled back his building.

"Despite short-term market conditions, we are bullish on Baltimore's future," Michael A. Christianson, an attorney for Mr. Attman, told the planning commission.

Adam Gross, the project's architect, said that some upper floors of the proposed 343,000-square-foot building would project out to the curb line. At street level, the building would be set back from the curb, and the overhanging upper floors would create a street-level arcade, he said. The upper floors would be supported by four-story columns at the curb line. "The decision that was made here is the major piece" of the city review needed before the project can be built, city planning director Ernest Freeman said after the hearing.

The newest plan "pulled the building back so the circulation below [on the street and sidewalk] stayed essentially the same."

A city council hearing on the proposed ordinance is set for June 18.

Mr. Freeman defended the decision to sell Mr. Attman the air rights over the sidewalk, an approval attacked by neighboring property owners as a bailout for a developer who would otherwise be stuck with an unusable property.

"Baltimore has unique circumstances," Mr. Freeman said. "There are development opportunities that have to be pursued with city cooperation."

But Ira Cooke, a lawyer representing the owners of the building at 7 E. Redwood St., which is on the same block as the Attman site, said that the city agreed to sell Mr. Attman a public right-of-way to expedite a project that has no public purpose.

"What's the uniqueness?" Mr. Cooke demanded. . . . It's just a matter of a person saying . . . it's not enough, I want more." Mr. Cooke said that other buildings nearby are on much larger lots than the land Mr. Attman controls, but the buildings are only slightly larger.

Alan Betten, another lawyer for 7 E. Redwood, said the bill is a bailout for Mr. Attman because the building would not be marketable if built within the developer's current property line, because its floors would be too small.

Indeed, the floors proposed even with the air rights are much smaller than those found in most Class A buildings downtown. Many are smaller even than those in buildings that have leased poorly because prospective tenants think the floors are too small.

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