Rebirth of a largely vacant building Miller to renovate, move to 31 Light St.

July 12, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Miller Corporate Real Estate Services yesterday unveiled plans for an extensive renovation of a largely vacant office building at 31 Light St., bucking a trend that has sapped downtown's older buildings of businesses.

Miller intends to move to the five-story building at Light and Lombard streets in September, leaving the 30-story Commerce Place skyscraper where it has been since 1993.

"We surveyed the entire market, and at the end of the day felt a loyalty to the city and we wanted to make a commitment to the city," Miller principal Ira J. Miller told the city's Architectural Review Board, which approved in principle the firm's plans.

Miller principals acquired the Light Street building for $571,000 last week from NationsBank Corp., which inherited it in the purchase of MNC Financial Inc. The former Suburban Trust building has been largely vacant for five years. Miller's shift represents an anomaly downtown, where one-quarter of the so-called Class B offices remain empty.

In recent years, law, accounting and other services firms have capitalized on depressed rental rates downtown and abandoned aging Class B buildings, which lack modern amenities such as parking and electronic wiring in favor of newer office towers.

Miller intends to strip the 92-year-old structure of aluminum plating and restore the exterior to its original appearance.

The firm also plans to augment the 30,000-square-foot property's entrance, install new heating, air conditioning and ventilation equipment and put its name on the building's top at a cost of more than $200,000.

"The aluminum skin is more than 30 years old, and at an age where it would need significant maintenance," said Amy L. Gould, president of Gould Architects P. A., the firm designing the renovations. "So that's when we began looking at the possibility of removing the skin."

The firm will occupy the second floor of 31 Light St., moving 21 employees and increasing its space by 50 percent, Miller said. The bottom floor is home to a CVS Pharmacy.

In addition, the building's top floor will become the quarters of Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co., which will move in September from the 30-story World Trade Center.

The balance of the space in the Light Street building will be rented for roughly $14.75 per square foot, Miller said.

"We believe the building is positioned a notch above most other Class B buildings, given its location and the improvements we're making," Miller said. "We're going to pretty much have a brand new building."

The only other older office buildings being refurbished downtown are the 115-year-old American Building at 231 E. Baltimore St. and USF&G Corp.'s former eight-story headquarters at 131 E. Redwood St., which dates to 1906. Both projects are owned and being renovated by Orion Construction Corp., a Laurel developer and contractor.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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