The fence is up and the construction crews are on the scene. After three years, work has started on Lockwood Place, a shopping-parking-office project on the Inner Harbor.
The $100 million project is expected to bring restaurants and shops to Pratt Street that fit in with its retail and entertainment neighbors at the Power Plant and Power Plant Live. A top-tier office tower with water views will provide room for about 800 to 1,000 more workers in the central business district.
The project has been on the drawing board since August 1998, when Baltimore City Community College chose a development group lead by Kravco Co. to lease and build on its property, now a parking lot.
Other partners include A&R Development Corp. of Baltimore and Parkway Corp. of Philadelphia. Trammell Crow Co., a national real estate services company with local offices, is expected to develop the office portion of the project.
The project plans have changed over time to accommodate city requirements and economic conditions. The latest plans no longer call for a hotel.
The retail and 940-space garage portions are to be completed in spring 2003. The 200,000-square-foot to 250,000-square-foot office building should follow.
Trammell Crow has said the office tower will be constructed on speculation, without committed tenants, which is unusual in Baltimore.
The developers and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the general contractor, began late last month to do site work, such as placing utilities.
The project has yet to obtain a city building permit, which won't be needed until early next year.
Kravco is to keep some of the 386 parking spaces open until the end of the year.
"We feel that parking at the existing site is such an important asset to the downtown area that we intend to maintain as much of the lot open as construction activities permit," said Rod Brana, vice president for development at Kravco, which is based in King of Prussia, Pa.
Baltimore, recognizing the need for parking, as well as more shops and office space, has approved a tax break that will save the developers up to $1.5 million a year in local property taxes for the next 20 years.
The developers said the tax break, a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), would help. The rest of the financing is not complete and no leases have been signed with retail tenants as well.
The Lockwood Place complex is bordered by Pratt, Lombard and Gay streets and Market Place. The 11-story tower could become the third major office project to break ground downtown in about a decade.
Developer Willard Hackerman, who also heads Whiting-Turner, has started to construct an office building atop a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. substation a few blocks east on Pratt Street. The Cordish Co. plans to break ground in the fall on another office building on Pier 4, next to the Power Plant office and entertainment complex. Both have announced some tenants.
The competition for tenants is expected to intensify because the pace of new lease signings is slowing locally and nationally. The developers of Lockwood Place say new office space is needed downtown, where the vacancy rate for top-tier buildings is below 10 percent, a level that generally triggers new construction.