Signs of soap keep history fresh

Urban Landscape

Landmark: The developer converting the former Procter & Gamble plant has found a way to incorporate the factory's origins into its modern architecture.

June 10, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

THE SCENT of soap still pervades some of the buildings at the former Procter & Gamble plant in Locust Point, even though the soap-making operation ceased five years ago.

Those industrial-strength fragrances apparently have gone to the heads of the new owners, who are converting the landmark to Baltimore's newest waterfront office center.

They've renamed the five major buildings in honor of products once made there. Office tenants will be able to lease space in the Tide Building, the Ivory Building, the Dawn Building, the Cascade Building or the Joy Building.

"You pick your detergent," explained developer Bill Struever, a partner in Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, the company in charge of the $53 million project. "We wanted some names so we could have some points of reference."

Struever Bros. plans to move its headquarters to the Joy Building because "we're joyous people," Struever quipped.

The Cascade building contains old kettles that were once cascading with soap. "And then we've got the Dawn building, where we're hoping for high-tech companies," Struever said. "It will be the dawn of a new era."

Since acquiring the 15-acre parcel at 1422 Nicholson St. this year, Struever Bros. has moved quickly to secure permits and sign up tenants for the project, called The Point.

Last month, Baltimore's Planning Commission approved legislation that would enable the new owners to recycle the property as an "industrial planned unit development." The City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on that bill next week.

On Tuesday, Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation approved a request to add the property to the National Register of Historic Places so that the developers could qualify for tax credits for historic preservation.

Struever has moved some of his employees into the Tide building, which Procter & Gamble renovated just before it left Baltimore in 1994. The offices there feature panoramic views of the city's harbor and downtown skyline, one of The Point's key attractions.

The three-story buildings date from 1929 and are in relatively good shape. Struever said he plans to recycle them in phases to create 400,000 square feet of office space, with nearly 1,000 parking spaces nearby. In all, there could be space for up to 2,000 employees. In some cases, windows will be inserted or enlarged so that more interior spaces have harbor views.

The planned-unit-development legislation also gives the owners the right to build up to 50,000 square feet of related commercial space, such as a copy center, a day care center and a restaurant. One prospective office tenant is Ayers Saint Gross, an architecture firm with offices on St. Paul Place.

Struever said he is optimistic that the property will appeal to the same types of tenants who gravitated to two other conversions his company recently completed near Baltimore's waterfront, the former American Can Co. building on Boston Street and the former Bagby building on Exeter Street.

One difference between those projects and The Point is that the American Can and Bagby properties are separated from the harbor by busy streets -- Boston and Fleet -- whereas The Point is on the water's edge.

Struever's master plan calls for the Locust Point property to have a waterfront promenade and park open to the public, along with a water taxi stop that could provide easy access to other sections of Baltimore's harbor front.

Design Collective is the design architect for the building conversions, and Cho, Wilks and Benn is the landscape architect working on the promenade and park. Colliers Pinkard is handling leasing.

The Procter & Gamble property has been "a sleeper because it's been sitting dark for so long, but it's going to be easy to make it leap out as a delightful spot on the waterfront," Struever said.

At the recent Planning Commission meeting, City Council member Rochelle "Rikki" Spector had just one suggestion for the marketing team: "Don't call one of those buildings Olestra, OK?"

Design work to resume on Hippodrome project

Design work will soon resume on the Hippodrome Performing Arts center planned for downtown Baltimore. The Maryland Stadium Authority voted this month to spend up to $1.8 million to hire a team headed by Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer of New York and Murphy and Dittenhafer of Baltimore to finish design work on the theater project by late this year so that drawings can be put out for bid next spring. Maryland's General Assembly allocated the design funds this year, and they will become available on July 1.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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