Suburban company takes to city Commitment: The chief of Sylvan Learning Systems, the first national business of its size to move to the city in 20 years, says the relocation symbolizes several successes.

Urban Landscape

November 21, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

OH, THIS LEARNING, what a thing it is," William Shakespeare wrote in "The Taming of the Shrew."

Soon, the folks who know all about learning will learn what a thing it is to work in downtown Baltimore.

Starting tomorrow, Sylvan Learning Systems will begin moving its corporate headquarters from Columbia to 1000 Lancaster St., a six-story office building near completion in the Inner Harbor East development between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

Douglas Becker, chief executive of the nationwide testing and tutoring company, said 250 employees are moving this weekend and another 50 to 60 will move within a month. By Monday, "we should have just about everybody in but the accounting department," he said. "I'm looking forward to learning how to find my way around."

The move makes Sylvan the first national company of its size to move its headquarters to Baltimore in more than 20 years.

It will be the first office tenant of the 20-acre Inner Harbor East development, part of Baltimore's federally designated empowerment zone.

As head of the company occupying most of the high-profile building, Becker has become a poster boy of sorts for the empowerment zone. He said the decision to move has been good for Sylvan, even before the vans arrive.

"It is so exciting for us because the building has become a symbol for a lot of things: how our company has grown, how we want to be participants in the community," he said.

"It's hard to feel like a participant in the community when you're in the suburbs. This has become such a rallying point for us."

Ground was broken Dec. 8, 1995, for the $32 million development, on the block bounded by Exeter, Lancaster and Aliceanna streets and Central Avenue. Other site work has included a pedestrian promenade along the shoreline and new streets and sidewalks linking the central business district with East Baltimore.

The developer is a joint venture of the Paterakis family of Baltimore and the Evans Co. of McLean, Va. Beatty Harvey Fillat is the architect. Armada/Hoffler Construction Co. of Chesapeake, Va., is the general contractor. Design Collective is the designer for Sylvan's interior space.

Still under construction and due to open in the spring on the same block is a 113-unit apartment tower called The Promenade. The apartment tower and office building rise from the same base and are separated by a landscaped courtyard two stories above the street.

The 130,000-square-foot office building has a glass and precast concrete surface, with brick accents. Sylvan leased 92,000 square feet, including all or part of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors. Other tenants include Baltimore magazine; Standard & Poor's; and Phillips Edison & Co., a real estate firm. Retail tenants include a restaurant, bank and convenience store.

The building is 100 percent committed to tenants, said development team member Michael Beatty. "Once we put it up, the building just leased itself."

Architect Peter Fillat noted that the tenants are getting far more than just rooms inside the building.

"They're getting the promenade, the harbor and world-class views," he said. "That's what Inner Harbor East is all about. That's what Baltimore is all about, for that matter."

Becker, who lives in the nearby tower at 100 Harborview Drive and is chairman of the children's museum planned for Market Place, said the urban setting made the office space very appealing.

"I've heard this referred to as downtown Baltimore's first campuslike business setting. I don't know if that's true, but that was what we were looking for."

The Lancaster Street building may not be the only one in the area with Sylvan as a tenant. Becker said the fast-growing company will need another 50,000 square feet in about a year.

He said he has been talking to Paterakis and Evans about leasing additional space in a second building that would be constructed just north of the first, if it materializes in time.

Designed by Beatty Harvey Fillat, the second building will contain offices, a gourmet grocery, drug store and an all-suites hotel with at least 150 rooms. Work is tentatively scheduled to be complete by spring 1998.

Hilton Hotels Corp. is interested in building a 700-room hotel on the property' west side.

Preservation Maryland names a new director

Tyler Gearhart, deputy director of Preservation Maryland, will succeed David Chase as executive director of the organization on Jan. 1. Chase announced his resignation in September.

Preservation Maryland is a private preservation organization that active statewide. Gearhart, who has a master's degree in historic preservation from the University of Vermont, joined the group as programs director in 1994 and was promoted to deputy director in 1995.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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