State rejects shops for 500 E. Pratt site Way open for plans from proponent of 2 office towers

Commercial real estate

March 03, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF GR. MAP

The state yesterday officially rejected a Cordish Co. proposal to construct retail stores on the last largely untouched swath of land on Pratt Street at the Inner Harbor, paving the way for a Connecticut developer to submit plans for a $120 million office and garage project.

The state's decision means that Baltimore City Community College will be able to consider a proposal by the Peter D. Leibowits Co. Inc., which hopes to build two office towers at the 500 E. Pratt St. site.

The community college, which along with the state controls the 2.8-acre site, intends to issue a formal request for new proposals in the near future.

"The college has chosen not to accept the Cordish Co.'s proposal, and, as a result, the Department of General Services has canceled the request for proposals for development of the site," said Dave Humphrey, a DGS spokesman.

In rejecting Cordish's proposal for $18.5 million worth of retail stores, the college cited concerns that shops might not generate sufficient revenue over time to pay the $800,000 lease price that the college is demanding.

The site, containing a 36,000-square-foot office building and a 240-space parking lot, currently generates more than $750,000 a year for the college.

"The board's strongest concern is the stability of the revenue over time to pay the lease, which we use for heating, lighting, salaries and other critical things," said James D. Tschechtelin, BCCC's president. Tschechtelin said he could not provide an exact date for the new request for proposals (RFP). The college has been mandated by the state to develop the site to maximize its value.

Leibowits' proposal calls for up to 875,000 square feet of new, Class A office space, roughly three times the size of the 28-story Legg Mason Tower. It also calls for an 800-space garage.

Leibowits is attempting to lure Piper & Marbury, the state's largest law firm, to one of the towers.

"We think the merits of our proposal are strong and that it will be difficult to beat," Leibowits said yesterday.

BCCC awarded exclusive development rights to Cordish, which redeveloped the once-derelict Power Plant across Pratt Street from the college's site, in November 1996. But when the city shot down a Cordish plan for a $139 million hotel at the site, the college's interest in Cordish's retail and parking proposal began to wane.

Tschechtelin said at least part of the reason for the new RFP was that the commercial real estate market downtown has improved dramatically in the past 16 months.

But Cordish appeared willing yesterday to try and salvage its project. "The Cordish Co.'s plan for the BCCC site is a win-win-win proposal," said Charles Jacobs, a Cordish spokesman. "It represents the highest and most secure monetary payment for BCCC, it creates retail viability and linkage to Market Place, which has tremendous spinoff benefits for the city and institutions like the Childrens Museum that need linkage to the Inner Harbor.

"It also allows for an independent, Class A office building for a tenant like Piper & Marbury," Jacobs added. He declined further comment or to answer questions.

In response, Leibowits said his company's proposal and Cordish's have "no continuity."

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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