Baltimore Sun weighs selling, leasing six-story Calvert Street building Talks are under way with state of Maryland

March 02, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Faced with an abundance of vacant space resulting primarily from the 1992 opening of a $165 million printing plant, the Baltimore Sun Co. is exploring either leasing space in or selling its six-story building at 501 N. Calvert St.

"In view of what we're doing to improve efficiency, we're looking at every option for our building, whether that means leasing space to someone else, moving or staying here and renovating space," said Jean Halle, a vice president and chief financial officer.

The newspaper company, publisher of The Sun, is in the early stages of a possible lease transaction with the state of Maryland.

The state is currently considering roughly 10 proposals for new downtown offices for the Maryland Insurance Administration, a 250-person agency that now is in the Stanbalt Building at 501 St. Paul Place.

That 15-story building, completed in 1922 for the Standard Oil Corp., is distinctive because it is one of the only remaining Baltimore office buildings without central air conditioning and whose elevators are manually operated. The state pays about $1.5 million annually in rent for the 165,000-square-foot Stanbalt Building, which also is the home of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation.

"The state has received a number of interesting proposals, and the real estate office and MIA representatives are now beginning to evaluate them," said Dave Humphrey, a state Department of General Services spokesman.

Maryland officials are expected to decide if the insurance agency needs to move by June. Its leases expire in April 1997.

Under a tentative offer from the Baltimore Sun Co., the insurance administration would lease 45,000 square feet of the 440,000-square-foot building through 2007.

The state would also have an option to purchase the building and an adjacent parking garage at 601 N. Calvert St. for $20 million, according to Ms. Halle.

Maryland officials are expected to tour the newspaper's 47-year-old structure -- along with several other buildings -- next week.

The Sun's offer comes as the publisher is aggressively searching for ways to cut costs and enhance efficiency. The company currently requires about 125,000 square feet of space in the complex, Ms. Halle said.

The company's space needs have shrunk because of employee moves to bureaus outside the city, downsizing and the completion of a 422,000-square-foot printing plant in Port Covington, known as Sun Park, in early 1991.

For the state, a lease or purchase of the Calvert Street complex would continue its own efforts to shave real estate costs. Since 1991, the state has trimmed more than $17 million from its annual rent, in part by acquiring buildings.

The state already owns several offices near The Sun complex, including a five-story building at 500 N. Calvert and a six-story building at 707 N. Calvert St.

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