Angelos bids $6 million for One Charles Center He plans to spend $4 million on improvements

November 13, 1996|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Peter G. Angelos, who led a charge to restore local ownership to the Baltimore Orioles, has turned his attention to restoring downtown's first modern skyscraper to prominence.

But the roughly $6 million he bid to buy the One Charles Center office tower will serve as more than Angelos' latest effort to revitalize the city: The 22-story building also will become a permanent home for his expanding law practice.

"One Charles Center has over the years lost its aura as one of downtown's premier buildings, in part because it has had a single tenant for so long," said Ted Hirsh, an Angelos attorney who handles the firm's real estate matters. "Mr. Angelos' plan is to restore that prominence."

As part of a revitalization plan, the Orioles' chairman and chief executive will spend at least $4 million to upgrade the 34-year-old project, which sparked development in Charles Center and the city's first urban renaissance in the early 1960s.

The upgrades under consideration include lighting the exterior of the 100 N. Charles St. building, as well as renovating its lobby and an adjacent outdoor plaza.

Angelos' firm will occupy at least two floors when its lease ends at 300 E. Lombard St. in March.

Neither Angelos nor representatives of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., One Charles Center's owner since August 1993, returned telephone calls for comment.

An Angelos purchase of One Charles Center -- scheduled to be finalized this month -- would end a turbulent four-year period in the history of the building, which was designed by famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and at one time was Baltimore's premier business address.

"For a number of years, it housed T. Rowe Price Associates, the Center Club, and a number of top law and accounting firms," said Richard P. Manekin, a senior vice president of CB Commercial Real Estate Group, which has been marketing the building for sale since MetLife seized ownership.

"The acquisition represents an outstanding opportunity to increase the stature of a building that has a long and important history in the Baltimore business community."

But in recent years, that history became tarnished as gleaming, glass-skinned skyscrapers began to ring the Inner Harbor, luring businesses with modern amenities and views of the water. One Charles Center is currently 60 percent vacant, Hirsh said.

Most recently, a pending $5.5 million sale of the 320,000-square-foot tower fell through in August, when the New York investment group working to purchase it discovered its attorney had absconded with millions of his clients' cash.

That episode followed a state decision in March 1994 to pass on the building as a headquarters for the Office of the Attorney General. State officials rejected a deal because they believed MetLife's $9.5 million asking price was excessive.

At the heart of One Charles Center's troubles, however, was CSX Corp.'s decision in 1992 to shift the headquarters of its railroad arm from Baltimore to Jacksonville, Fla.

That decision, combined with a potential loss of income, led Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell to abandon the project, leaving MetLife on the hook for more than $19.6 million. It has been offering the building for $11.5 million.

Although CSX in March 1994 affirmed its commitment to One Charles through the year 2000, the company is expected to leave when its lease expires. CSX has been the building's only tenant since 1980.

"Hopefully this will open a path to the North Charles Street corridor," Hirsh said. "Everyone wants to be by the Inner Harbor these days, which is fine, but there are so many beautiful buildings just two or three blocks away."

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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