Tower may go on college lot Leibowits looking at 500 E. Pratt, the BCCC property

Commercial real estate

November 06, 1997|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Stymied in an effort to triple the size of a Pratt Street office building across from the Inner Harbor, a Connecticut real estate developer has turned his attention to constructing a 12-story building next door on a vacant lot owned by the Baltimore City Community College.

Peter D. Leibowits Co. Inc.'s plan for the college-owned land at 500 E. Pratt St. would involve roughly $100 million worth of commercial development, on the last undeveloped lot downtown along the Pratt Street corridor.

"The Baltimore City Community College site obviously presents an opportunity," said Peter Leibowits, president of the company that bears his name. "We've looked at that parcel for the past five years, and we would have a synergism that no one else could have. But that property is owned by the college, and it's an integral part of their operating budget, so any development there would have to be carefully planned."

The college currently receives roughly $750,000 in revenues a year from a 240-space parking lot at the site.

Leibowits' desire to develop the state-controlled BCCC site comes as plans to spend $50 million to add as many as 15 floors to the 11-story Inner Harbor Center that he owns at 400 E. Pratt St. -- adjacent to the BCCC site -- have stalled because of the cost to increase the size of the building, sources said.

If built, the office building at 500 E. Pratt St. would contain about 300,000 square feet and rise roughly 12 stories. Leibowits is negotiating to lure Piper & Marbury LLC, the state's largest law firm with 450 employees and attorneys downtown, from its Charles Center South quarters when its lease expires in early 2001.

"We're exploring every opportunity in developing a project with Piper," Leibowits said.

The last new office building to be constructed downtown went up in 1991, when a New York developer and a Japanese construction conglomerate completed the 30-story Commerce Place. That 450,000-square-foot building is now leased primarily to BT Alex. Brown Inc., for which the building was renamed.

Leibowits' plans come at a time when the city's office market has recovered, with large blocks of space disappearing rapidly and rental rates inching toward levels that will support new construction.

Piper & Marbury Chairman Francis B. Burch Jr. declined to comment on the status of negotiations with Leibowits, and BCCC officials did not return telephone calls for comment.

Leibowits' design for the 2.8-acre BCCC site also would include a parking garage with as many as 800 spaces, and additional office space atop the garage.

The BCCC site in recent weeks has become the focus of renewed activity, after college trustees rejected an $18.5 million plan from Cordish Co. to construct a garage and retail space there. The Leibowits proposal contains no retail space.

Cordish, which won a competition to obtain rights to develop the BCCC land last year, also wanted the property to help rejuvenate the Power Plant and to construct a $139 million hotel. Cordish officials said that, despite the trustee's rejection -- based on the amount of money the developer's proposal would generate -- the firm continues to negotiate for the site with Department of General Services representatives.

"As far as we're concerned legally, the BCCC board is not in a position to terminate our rights, only the state can, because it was the state that put out the request for proposals," said David S. Cordish, the firm's chairman.

State officials also declined to comment on the BCCC development rights, or where negotiations with either Cordish or Leibowits stand.

"We have received a telephone call from a representative of Mr. Leibowits," said Dave Humphrey, a DGS spokesman. "But we have not seen any proposal, and we wouldn't comment on it until we see it."

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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