Architecture firm RTKL to expandOne more sign of a thaw in...

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

November 03, 1993|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Architecture firm RTKL to expand

One more sign of a thaw in the icy world of commercial development: RTKL Associates Inc., the state's largest architecture firm, plans to expand its downtown headquarters.

"We have agreed to do it," said Kurt Haglund, assistant to RTKL Chairman Harold Adams, of a deal to boost the size of RTKL's 50,000-square-foot headquarters in the Commerce Place building at South and Baltimore streets by 8,000 square feet. He said the letter of intent is expected to be signed when Mr. Adams returns from a trip abroad.

The move is significant because it mirrors the slight improvement in conditions for architects, an indicator of the health of construction generally. Architects handle the earliest stages of the development process, and work for architects now is likely to mean work for other construction professionals later.

In fact, RTKL's lease once before served as an indicator of the construction industry's prospects. In 1989, RTKL made a commitment for 100,000 square feet at Commerce Place -- a plan later scaled back.

Mr. Haglund said RTKL also is preparing to expand its Washington office, when it moves northward from one Connecticut Avenue tower to another in March. That office will go to 20,000 square feet from about 14,000 square feet.

The firm will use part of the space to relocate about a dozen staffers left behind at the firm's old 400 E. Pratt St. location when RTKL moved earlier this year, Mr. Haglund said.

Another part is slated to accommodate recent hires and planned growth.

State could buy One Charles Center

When One Charles Center went on the auction block, many observers thought the building would be a natural for the state's campaign to buy office buildings and phase out rented office space. But the state Department of General Services said at the time it wasn't interested.

That appears to be changing. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has ordered the department to look into the feasibility of purchasing the 30-year tower. And the state has put a hold on a new 100,000-square-foot lease for the Attorney General's Office at a nearby building while that research is done.

That leaves David Kornblatt, the attorney general's current landlord, on the spot. With his 280,000-square-foot St. Paul Plaza building having emerged from Chapter 11 with a reworked financing plan, Mr. Kornblatt needs to keep the building's biggest tenant or quickly replace it.

The state wrung lease concessions from him during negotiations that ended in September. But those concessions were loaded into the last years of the renewed -- and now tabled --

lease to make the reorganization plan work more smoothly.

"The Kornblatt lease that's in place right now doesn't run out until December [1994]," said Martin W. Walsh Jr., secretary of general services. "With this major new opportunity in front of us there was not the immediacy" requiring that the lease renewal be signed right away.

The department has commissioned two appraisers to look over the Mies van der Rohe-designed tower, and top officials have toured the building. Appraisals are due around mid-November.

Land auction delayed by bankruptcy plea

A large, much-anticipated land auction in Washington County was postponed last Thursday when the owner of 500 acres set for foreclosure filed a last-minute bankruptcy petition.

Western Commercial Funding Inc. of Oklahoma City filed a last-minute Chapter 11 action in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rockville, said auctioneer Daniel Billig of A. J. Billig & Co., the Baltimore firm that had been scheduled to handle the sale.

The bankruptcy reorganization filing bars creditors from taking action to collect Western Commercial's debts. That stay kept Central Maryland Farm Credit Bank ACA from foreclosing on the eight parcels in and around Smithsburg.

Mr. Billig said the auction house expects to offer the land within a couple of months. Bankruptcy law allows the stay to be lifted if creditors can show that the debtor won't be able to propose a successful reorganization plan or that the value of the collateral securing the loan is endangered if foreclosure is delayed.

No motions have been scheduled yet for hearing in the Chapter 11 action.

Lawrence company inherits new leader

The torch is being passed in one of Baltimore's best-known family-run construction firms, as Bertero Basignani takes over as president of Lawrence Construction Co. Inc., the North Baltimore firm founded by his father, Lawrence, in 1949.

"It's been a tough market, so we're going after public works again for the first time in a long time, and we're going after a TC higher profile," the younger Mr. Basignani said. The family decided that the change in emphasis made this a good time for Lawrence Basignani, who remains the company chairman, to cede some of his control.

"It takes a little more energy these days," the younger Mr. Basignani said. "My father is 84, and he needs to slow down."

Lawrence has worked on projects such as Towson State University's Towson Center, the renovation of the Marsh & McLennan Building at 300 W. Pratt St., and a small office building at 1001 Cathedral St.

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