AAA to move regional offices from city to Elkton in July

April 26, 1995|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,Sun Staff Writer

AAA Mid-Atlantic Inc. yesterday became the latest in a series of longtime downtown businesses to plan its departure from Baltimore, saying it will move in July to Cecil County.

The relocation of AAA's insurance functions to Elkton will cost the city more than 150 jobs in the association's regional headquarters at 1401 Mount Royal Ave. AAA has been located downtown since 1901.

"The consolidation will allow the association to gather financial strength, better serve its members and be competitive," said Sharon Y. Perry, a spokeswoman. "We simply assessed our needs for the future."

The former AAA of Maryland, which in 1991 merged with a Pennsylvania affiliate to become AAA Mid-Atlantic, cited a lack of adequate parking and cost savings as factors behind the move.

The not-for-profit club, which plans to consolidate operations from Baltimore and Delaware, is the fifth-largest in the United States with 1.3 million members in five states. Roughly 400,000 members are in Maryland.

AAA has offered jobs to all affected employees, and decisions are expected within the next two weeks, Ms. Perry said. Another 35 administrative personnel are expected to relocate around Towson.

AAA is the latest high-profile Baltimore employer to leave downtown in favor of lower costs, more parking or safety concerns. In the past four years, companies such as Cadmus Journal Services, Amoco Corp., Pepsico Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and the Baltimore Life Insurance Co. have opted for suburban locations.

"These decisions are made at the corporate level, and when they are made there is precious little that anyone can do to change it," said Barbara Bonnell, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public economic development agency. "We regret every single person that leaves the city, but this is a situation that is not unique to Baltimore."

In connection with the move, AAA will sell its four-story building to the Maryland Institute, College of Art for $2.85 million. The sale is expected to close in late October.

The college, whose 950 students occupy several buildings along Mount Royal Avenue, intends to spend roughly $2 million to convert the 60,000-square-foot AAA Building to classroom, studio and library space by the fall of 1996.

"From a curricular point of view, there's a need to house new technologies and provide extra space for our library," said Maryland Institute President Fred Lazarus.

AAA completed the building in 1969 at a cost of $1.5 million, in response to a growing number of cars and an increase in its insurance business.

The Elkton move, to almost 25,000 square feet of office space in the Upper Chesapeake Corporate Center, won't affect AAA's eight branch offices, including those in Lutherville and Westminster.

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