B&O warehouse proving a big hit

URBAN LANDSCAPE

March 16, 1995|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

Whether fans will pack Oriole Park at Camden Yards this spring if the major league baseball strike continues is still in question. But space in one part of the ballpark appears to be going, going, gone: the mammoth B&O Warehouse behind right field.

First, Waverly Inc., the local publisher of medical journals, announced plans to move its headquarters by June from midtown to the south end of the warehouse -- which gives Oriole Park its most memorable architectural signature.

Now, a second midtown firm has disclosed plans to move to the north end of the warehouse by fall. Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet, one of Baltimore's largest architectural firms, has signed a letter of intent to move its headquarters to the warehouse's seventh and eighth floors, next to the Camden Club.

From that vantage point, its employees and visitors will have a commanding view of several of the firm's best-known projects, including the Baltimore Convention Center and the $150 million expansion rising next to it, and the Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel.

Glen Tipton, a CS&D senior vice president, said the firm had been looking for a location for some time but discovered the warehouse space almost by accident.

While designing a temporary altar for Pope John Paul II to use during what turned out to be his postponed visit to Baltimore and the ballpark, he explained, he toured the vacant warehouse and was intrigued.

"We see it as a commitment to Baltimore," Mr. Tipton said of the firm's decision to move. "It's also an opportunity to make a major change for the firm."

The move will mark the first time in decades that CS&D will have no presence in Mount Vernon. Incorporated in 1968 as the outgrowth of a firm begun by the late Alexander Cochran in 1947, it has been at 925 N. Charles St., 800 N. Charles St. and its current headquarters, the Latrobe Building at 2 E. Read St.

In the 1980s, its principals teamed up with partners of PersonaCare, Inc., to plan a midrise office building in the 900 block of N. Charles St. Although several buildings were razed for that project, construction never began because of the weak real estate market. The same principals also own the Peabody Book Shop and Beer Stube at 913 N. Charles St., which was to serve as construction headquarters for the general contractor, Harkins Builders.

Mr. Tipton said the design firm did not want to move to the suburbs and did not want to be in a new high-rise, but still considered many options before selecting the warehouse. He said he and his partners liked the warehouse's location downtown, its proximity to light rail and MARC lines, its nearby parking, and its high profile.

The fact that the company had season tickets to Orioles games didn't hurt either, said senior vice president Thomas Spies. "It's a very recognizable building," he said. "Everybody knows the ballpark."

Designed by Baldwin and Pennington, the 1,116-foot-long warehouse is one of Baltimore's longest and most distinctive buildings. It was constructed from 1898 to 1905 to store goods shipped through Camden Yards when it was a rail hub. Renovated as part of the ballpark, it houses the Orioles' offices and other baseball-related spaces, including street-level shops and restaurants. With Waverly and CS&D, its office space is more than two-thirds committed.

The architects say they hope to complete lease negotiations in several weeks. That would enable them to renovate the space and move in before the pope's visit in October. It also would give them a front-row seat from which to view the Oct. 8 Mass -- with the CS&D-designed altar.

"That's one of the most innovative ways we've heard of getting a good seat for the papal Mass," said Bill Blaul, communications director for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Mount Vernon

CS&D's decision to move to Camden Yards means it will never be an occupant of the office building that was planned for 925 N. Charles St. The landowners are now seeking a buyer for the vacant lot and the adjacent Peabody Book Shop and Beer Stube.

Leaders of the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Improvement Association say one likely buyer is the neighboring Maryland Club, which could use it to build additional squash courts.

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