Law firm adds a floor at 7 St. Paul

Whiteford, Taylor & Preston signs lease keeping it downtown

January 16, 2004|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP announced yesterday that it has signed a long-term lease committing to an additional floor in the downtown tower that the law firm currently occupies.

The firm's 105 lawyers and 115 support staff currently occupy four floors in the Wachovia Tower at 7 St. Paul St. and will increase that space to 89,000 square feet on five floors by 2006.

"From the inception of our firm, we've always been in the central business district," said Al Mezzanotte, managing partner at the law office. "It's part of our identity. It's part of our commitment to our clients and to the business community."

The firm did not look outside the city, but did consider about six locations within Baltimore before deciding to stay and expand in the Wachovia Tower, Mezzanotte said. The building is owned by Harbor Group International of Norfolk, Va.

"That building's location is really the heart of the business district," Mezzanotte said. "It was a forward-looking building when it was built, and it remains so today."

The lease, which runs through 2016, allows for growth to a roster of 130 attorneys in Baltimore and provides an option for further expansion.

The long-term commitment is another boost for Baltimore's traditional business district, coming on the heels of Miles & Stockbridge PC's October announcement that it was signing a long-term lease with options for additional space and doing $4 million in renovations.

Miles & Stockbridge signed a 10-year lease renewal in the Bank of America building at 10 Light St. in the city's financial district, with options for an additional six years. The 271 lawyers and other staff at its Baltimore headquarters occupy 126,000 square feet of space on eight floors in the building, considered a prime example of Art Deco design.

The reaffirmation of downtown's importance by the two law firms comes as welcome news to city political and civic leaders still smarting from Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe LLP's move to Mount Washington in 2000.

The blue-chip law firm relocated most of its 500 attorneys and support staff to Mount Washington, vacating 15 floors in a Charles Street office building in one of the largest defections ever from downtown.

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