Future of 500 E. Pratt to be known this week BCCC weighing 3 plans for site

Commercial real estate

June 02, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Baltimore City Community College will decide later this week between three proposals that will determine the fate of one of the last undeveloped swaths of land on Pratt Street at the Inner Harbor.

College officials declined to identify the bidders, but two of the developers were not shy in talking about how their plan for the 500 E. Pratt St. site would best benefit the city.

A plan put forth by Connecticut-based PDL Investment Co. would cost more than $120 million and add as much as 800,000 square feet of office space in two phases. The first phase would be completed in January 2001. That 12-story office tower would likely become the headquarters for Piper & Marbury, the state's HTC largest law firm, whose lease in 36 S. Charles St. is ticking toward expiration at the start of the next century.

"In our opinion, we have clearly the best proposal for the city of Baltimore and the community college," said Peter D. Leibowits, president of PDL Investment. "We're ready to go."

By contrast, the Baltimore-based Cordish Co.'s plan would introduce high-end retail to the 2.8-acre site, as part of a $100 million-plus project. Cordish's proposal also includes a 10-story, 230,000-square-foot office building and a future hotel with as many as 300 rooms.

For Cordish, the firm that reinvigorated the dormant Power Plant on Pier 5 and has similar plans for the Brokerage complex, the BCCC site represents more than just a tract for new stores or offices.

"We see BCCC as part of a broader vision, connecting the Inner Harbor with the Power Plant with Market Place and the [planned] children's museum," said Joe Weinberg, a Cordish executive vice president. "BCCC provides the key linkage to tie all of those projects together and make them all viable. And it makes greater sense for the college, because retail brings in national income producing tenants that allow for greater returns."

Cordish's plan marks the second time it has vied to develop the BCCC site. In March, the college rejected a Cordish $18.5 million plan to put retail on the site, after awarding the firm rights to develop it in November 1996.

The college, which declined to identify the third bidder, is likely to base its selection largely on money, however.

More pointedly, it will have to determine which proposal can provide the college with enough cash to make up for the $750,000 a year it currently rakes in from a 240-space parking lot.

Regardless of which of the three projects triumphs at the end of BCCC's selection process, though, development of the college site would likely represent the second of as many major projects to go forward on East Pratt Street. Come fall, New York-based Schulweis Realty Co. has vowed to push ahead with plans for a $124 million Westin hotel.

It is unlikely, too, that the Inner Harbor will lose any parking spaces as a result of the college's pending decision. Both PDL's and Cordish's plans would incorporate an 800-car garage into their project mix.

"We expect to reach a conclusion soon and select a developer and enter into negotiations," said BCCC President James D. Tschechtelin.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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