Former Sam's Club houses SSA workers

Temporary use prompted by headquarters' overhaul

April 03, 2003|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The Social Security Administration, in the midst of a $100 million overhaul of its complex of buildings in Woodlawn, has found an unlikely place to house its displaced workers: a former Sam's Club.

Workers began moving last week into the unused "big box" store, which is near the agency's campus abutting the Baltimore Beltway west of the city.

The federal government leased the building for 10 years and will rotate up to 700 workers into the new offices at any time.

"We'll use it as swing space as we do work on different buildings in Woodlawn," said Robert J. Shaw, a public information officer for the General Services Administration, which handles leasing. "We'll move people in there in four or five phases. There are about 400 people in there now. We could end up there longer than 10 years if SSA expands, which is a possibility because the population is getting older."

The Social Security Administration will pay $2.3 million a year to lease the space, Shaw said.

It took five months to convert the warehouse-like building into offices at a cost of $8.5 million. The owner, the Balogh Family Partnership of Miami Beach, Fla., has been looking for a replacement for the Sam's Club since it left a year and a half ago.

"This was an even better use than retail," said Walter Patton, a principal at NAI KLNB, who along with Andy Georgelakos and Tim Hearn worked on the deal. "The building is on a secondary road. Sam's Club relocated down to Route 40 where they got more visibility and a bigger building."

Patton said the old building at 1718 Woodlawn Drive was constructed in 1967 and would not be appealing to another retailer. He expects more big boxes to be converted to new uses as competition forces out some stores.

Big-box retailers that remain, he said, will seek out even bigger or more modern spaces.

The former Caldor department store on York Road in Anneslie, just north of the city-county line, was converted into offices just over a year ago. The 161,200-square-foot building houses about 900 Baltimore County and state employees who moved from Towson.

At 140,000 square feet, the former Sam's Club is a bit smaller than the Anneslie building.

Construction crews worked through the winter to redo the roof, and mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. About 400 telephone lines were installed and openings for windows were punched into the facade.

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