Local pair to buy Water Street complex Milton and Ira Miller to invest $1.75 million in 3rd downtown site

Real estate

June 16, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

A pair of local commercial real estate brokers are scheduled to buy a Water Street complex today that on weekends rings one of the city's most popular watering holes.

Milton H. Miller Jr. and Ira J. Miller plan to invest about $1.75 million to purchase and renovate the Water Street Mews, a five-building collection of offices, retail stores and restaurants dating from the early 1900s.

"We believe downtown is coming back, and there are a number of exciting projects being prepared," said Milton Miller. "And we believe in downtown from a property-appreciation standpoint as well."

The two Millers, who are not related, are partners in Miller Corporate Real Estate Services, an 8-year-old firm.

The 33,000-square-foot complex at 25-29 Light St. and 100-110 Water St. marks the third downtown purchase for the Millers in the past two years, after deals to buy 31 Light St. and 22 Light St. The Millers have invested about $4 million to buy and renovate the three projects.

The five-story 31 Light St. and the six-story 22 Light St. buildings were nearly vacant when the Millers bought them. Today, they are fully occupied.

Water Street Mews is 60 percent leased to Winchester's Comedy Club, Water Street Exchange, Mazer's Jewelers, United Parcel Service, Peter Fillat Architects and others.

The Millers intend to complete renovations to the buildings' roofs, mechanical systems and exteriors by November.

"We plan to preserve and enhance a lot of the buildings' historic features, just as we have at 31 and 22 Light St.," Ira Miller said.

At 31 Light St., the Millers stripped off aluminum plating to reveal a stone exterior reminiscent of the building's original appearance.

"This is just another indication of the strength of the city beyond the Inner Harbor," said Lori Gillen, director of business and economic development at the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., a quasi-private business group. "These guys have done two great renovation projects, so we're glad to see them buying another property in the area."

The Millers are buying the buildings from an affiliate of New York investment firm Goldman, Sachs & Co., which assumed control of Water Street Mews and nine other buildings from Kenilworth Equities Ltd. in November 1996. Water Street Mews and a small building at 7-9 Centre St. are the only two that Goldman Sachs has sold. It continues to own a 10-story structure at 16 S. Calvert St. and an 11-story project at 301 N. Charles St.

"We're actively managing the portfolio," said Cathy Farrar, an associate with the Archon Group of Texas, which was retained by Goldman Sachs.

While Water Street Mews is perhaps better known as a night spot than office space -- on weekend evenings throngs of people spill onto the mews' brick street for an extended happy hour -- the Millers seem unconcerned.

"It gives the area character," Milton Miller said. "We think it's a very important piece of property."

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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