Baltimore's largest architectural firm is designing a seven-story waterfront headquarters in Fells Point that would anchor a six-building, $90 million complex of shops, apartments and offices.
RTKL Associates Inc., a 54-year-old firm based in the Alex. Brown building at One South Street downtown, may move its 225 local employees to a 250,000-square-foot office building being planned at the southeast corner of Thames and Bond streets, said Gordon Godat, a vice president of the firm.
The firm unveiled a preliminary model of the building, which might feature a curved roof, shops along the street and adjacent waterfront plaza for the public, to city officials yesterday during a discussion of a 6-acre mixed-use development that would extend the Fells Point restaurant and shopping district.
Concerns about how the project might affect neighborhood parking were raised by a community activist.
The complex by Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and H&S Properties Development Corp. is one of several projects planned along that section of the waterfront that are expected to transform a landscape of parking lots and vacant industrial sites into a bustling commercial area.
"The revitalization of this area of Fells Point is going to be so significant and important for Baltimore, we'd love to be a part of it," said Godat, whose firm is also considering moving to Columbia or remaining in the Alex. Brown building it designed almost a decade ago.
The Struever proposal is in an early phase. Developers still need to create architectural designs of the buildings, win the approval of the city's architectural review panel, receive a rezoning of the industrial land and win approval from the City Council.
Construction on the project could begin next year, according to the developers.
Janet Marie Smith, vice president of planning and development for Struever Bros., said the project's waterfront promenade and public plaza will be an important link in the city's efforts to create a walkway for joggers and strollers that stretches along the city's entire harbor front.
"You are talking about development in an area that has been nothing but surface parking for a long time," Smith said. "We are looking to create some great buildings and allow for waterfront access that will give the waterfront back to the public."
Struever Bros. and H&S Properties propose building a cluster of five buildings and a group of five townhouses on 6 acres owned by Constellation Real Estate Group along Thames Street, from Caroline Street to about 100 feet east of Bond Street.
This project would include about 150 apartments in a pair of 90-foot-tall buildings; a five-story parking garage with about 700 spaces; a five-story building that could serve as an office building, a hotel or apartments; a strip of rowhouses; a seven-story office building; and a public walkway along the harbor, according to Linda T. Lo Cascio, senior development director for Struever Bros.
The project would be northeast of a $9.1 million museum devoted to the history of black sailors, called the Frederick Douglass/Isaac Myers Maritime Park, which is being built by the Living Classrooms Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
Romaine Somerville, a director of a citizens group called the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point, told the city's Design Advisory Panel yesterday that neighbors of the project are concerned about its size and whether it will cause parking problems in the congested area.
"The parking remains an issue," Somerville said.
RTKL hasn't decided whether it should move from its downtown headquarters, Godat said. The 800-employee firm also has offices in Dallas, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo. It has designed dozens of well-known buildings, including Charles Center in downtown Baltimore, Nextel headquarters in Reston, Va., the Harundale Mall in Anne Arundel County and the T. Rowe Price campus in Owings Mills.