Angelos to acquire two towers

One Center Plaza, Fidelity Building bring $12.4 million

His 4th downtown project

Business district deals coincide with planned Charles St. upgrading

Commercial real estate

September 02, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Furthering his efforts to rehabilitate downtown's traditionally defined central business district, Peter G. Angelos is preparing to buy two downtown office buildings for a combined $12.4 million.

Angelos' work to acquire the Fidelity Building at 210 N. Charles St. and One Center Plaza, at 120 W. Fayette St., dovetails with plans for a rejuvenation of Charles Street that is expected to begin soon.

Most notably, an estimated $25 million worth of streetscape improvements is planned that would add historic lighting, brick sidewalks, new curbs and repaved streets. The project is expected to begin next summer, according to officials from the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc.

"Charles Street is a major thoroughfare, an essential part of Baltimore's history that needs to be renovated and preserved," Angelos said yesterday.

The Orioles' majority owner is studying plans to convert the 15-story Fidelity Building into 173 apartments, a $14 million renovation that would further the city's goal of bringing 1,000 additional residents downtown in the next three years.

At 120 W. Fayette St., Angelos intends to invest $2 million to upgrade the 12-story building, including a comprehensive exterior renovation. Plans also call for installing retail tenants on the ground floor of the 150,000-square-foot building. Angelos said he expects to complete both transactions this month.

Near the Fidelity Building, Southern Management Corp. is converting Charles Plaza into a retail project with a movie theater.

David Hillman, Southern Management's chief executive, said as much as 80,000 square feet of new retail space could occupy the site, with work beginning in 2001. Southern Management, which owns 60 projects in Maryland and Virginia, owns the Charles Towers apartments behind Charles Plaza.

"Charles Street, from Lexington to Centre streets, is emerging as a neighborhood where people live, work, shop and dine," said Laurie Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership.

The 175,000-square-foot Fidelity Building, which is being sold by the F&D Cos. for $3 million, dates to the 1890s and is adjacent to One Charles Center, the historic 22-story office tower that Angelos bought for $6 million in late 1996.

If the plan to convert the building to apartments advances, Angelos probably will apply for $1 million in city financing to bridge the gap between development costs and market rents, said Wayne R. Gioioso Jr., a representative of Artemis Properties Inc., Angelos' real estate arm.

The conversion would take roughly two years. Angelos might elect to maintain the Fidelity Building -- one of the few structures downtown to survive the Great Fire of 1904 -- as offices, Gioioso said.

It is 83 percent leased to the F&D Cos.; Cho, Wilks & Benn Architects Inc.; and several small law firms. F&D, which shifted its headquarters to 300 St. Paul St. about eight years ago, has 200 employees in the building.

"The building has been beautifully maintained, and F&D is selling it to someone who will continue to maintain it to their high standards," said Joseph J. Casey, chief executive of Casey & Associates Inc., which represented F&D in the sale.

One Center Plaza is 95 percent occupied by advertising firm Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, the state's Department of Juvenile Justice and others.

"One Center Plaza gives Angelos a property with a high occupancy," said Ira J. Miller, the Miller Corporate Real Estate Services LLC principal who represented seller J. P. Morgan & Co. in the sale of One Center Plaza. "And with this property he gains critical mass."

The purchase of the buildings will bring to four the number of office projects Angelos owns in the central business district. In addition to One Charles Center, the Fidelity Building and One Center Plaza, the attorney owns the former Hamburger's Building at Charles and Fayette streets.

There, Angelos will begin work this month on a $7 million renovation for the Johns Hopkins University's downtown campus.

Artemis also is expected to begin work soon on a historic transformation of One Charles Center, thanks in part to newly enacted historic tax credits that will shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off the cost of the 370,000-square-foot building's renovation.

"The combination of all the different projects will produce an excellent, appealing change to this area," Angelos said. "It sets the stage for the total rehabilitation of Charles Street."

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