N.Y. publisher looking at sites for offices here

1 Light and 414 Water being considered by John Wiley & Sons

Which location? Which city?

Commercial real estate

August 18, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

If publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc. decides to move its corporate headquarters from New York to Baltimore, it would have several very different projects downtown from which to choose for its new offices.

The publishing house is evaluating a skyscraper planned at 1 Light St., a 20-acre tract east of the Inner Harbor, a vacant soap-making plant in South Baltimore and a proposed 17-story office tower at 414 Water St., according to sources with knowledge of the company's search.

If John Wiley were to relocate its headquarters and about 900 employees downtown, it would mark one of the largest corporate relocations in the city's history, dwarfing a 1996 move by Sylvan Learnings Systems Inc. that brought with it 250 jobs.

Neither officials from John Wiley, economic development agencies, development firms nor their representatives would comment on the company's plans or sites being evaluated.

John Wiley is one of the nation's largest publishers of scientific, technical, educational, medical and consumer books. The 192-year-old company has operations in Europe, Asia and Australia as well as in the United States and Canada.

Locally, the projects being considered are as diverse as they are geographically spread out.

Within the traditionally defined central business district, for instance, John Wiley could anchor a planned $120 million, mixed-use project known as One Light St.

The 35-story project, proposed by Capital Guidance Corp. and J. J. Clarke Enterprises Inc., is being designed to contain 300,000 square feet of office space -- the amount required by John Wiley.

Plans also call for the skyscraper to contain retail space, parking and a 267-room Embassy Suites hotel, but One Light St. remains unbuilt because it is dependent upon landing a major office tenant -- such as John Wiley.

Of the projects being considered in Baltimore, One Light St. would be closest in nature to John Wiley's present headquarters, a 44-story building at 605 Third Ave. in Manhattan. That building, which contains 984,400 square feet, was completed in 1963, according to information compiled by Realty Information Group of Bethesda.

John Wiley's lease there expires in 2003.

John Wiley may opt for less orthodox space if it comes here, however, and move to Inner Harbor East, a 20-acre, waterfront tract set to contain $350 million worth of commercial and residential space.

Inner Harbor East contains the seven-story headquarters of Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. and a 12-story apartment building. A $117 million, 31-story hotel is under construction, as is a $55 million project slated to contain a 12-story Courtyard by Marriott hotel with 207 rooms, 170,000 square feet of office space, a 375-space parking garage and a Fresh Fields gourmet grocery store.

John Wiley also has expressed interest in a vacant Procter & Gamble Co. plant in Locust Point, sources said.

Developer Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse Inc., which acquired the plant in April, is working to convert the 70-year-old plant into a chic, urban $53 million complex of offices and shops.

The 1422 Nicholson St. plant, which has been vacant since September 1995, will contain 400,000 square feet of space.

Although less of a possibility, a planned 17-story office tower atop an existing 1,100-space garage at 414 Water St. also is being evaluated. The city bought the 11-deck garage for $13.1 million in 1991.

John Wiley, a publicly traded company with $508 million in sales in its most recently completed fiscal year, is expected to make a decision by the end of the year on whether it will pursue relocating.

The company is believed to be evaluating other cities as well as considering remaining in New York.

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