Blaustein Building is sold to two Montgomery firms

$10 million deal expected to aid west-side revival

April 01, 2005|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

The Blaustein Building, a symbol of downtown revitalization when it was built by the founder of Amoco Oil in the 1960s, has been sold to a commercial real estate partnership for $10 million.

Corinthian Realty Partners of Bethesda and Nellis Corp. of Rockville have acquired the 25-story building from BGK Equities LLC of New Mexico.

The transaction, completed three weeks ago, is seen by business experts as another sign of confidence in the public and private-sector efforts to revitalize the west side of downtown, near the building at North Charles and Fayette streets.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Business section April 1 incorrectly identified the winner of a race to become Baltimore's first modern high-rise: One Charles Center was completed in 1962, preceding the Blaustein Building, which was not completed until 1963.

Calling the deal an "extraordinary investment opportunity," Corinthian President Richard Manekin said he plans to move his company headquarters into the 287,000-square-foot building.

Built in 1963 by Jacob Blaustein, whose American Oil Co. eventually grew into BP Amoco, the building was a downtown centerpiece that attracted high-profile tenants, including Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. and First National Bank of Maryland.

The project became a personal quest for Blaustein as it beat out the nearby One Charles Center office tower to become Baltimore's first modern high-rise and the first symbol of the Charles Center revitalization project.

The building lost some luster in recent years as newer commercial towers sprang up around the Inner Harbor during the 1980s and 1990s.

"There was a lot of energy in the beginning, but that faded when the Inner Harbor [was developed]," said David Kornblatt, a commercial real estate broker in Baltimore. "It sucked away some of the glamour of the area."

Santa Fe, N.M.-based BGK put the building, its last property in Maryland, on the market in June with about 60 percent of its space leased, said Charlene Mutz, who works in the BGK asset-management division that was in charge of the property.

Current tenants include the Maryland Volunteers Lawyer Service and US Airways Inc. offices, according to the online property database CoStar Property Professional.

BGK, which has a $2.5 billion portfolio and properties in 22 states, has sold two other city properties, the 42,000-square- foot Ambassador Warehouse and the 365,000-square-foot Wicomico Industrial Center.

The company didn't make much profit on the sale of the Blaustein Building, taking in $500,000 more than it paid for it nine years ago.

"I think it has to do with just the fact that the building has some vacancy," said Bruce Strasburg, a Washington-based broker who handled the deal for BGK. "There was very good interest in the building."

Several recent developments downtown, including the recent renovation of the Hippodrome Theatre and several high-end apartment buildings created by Southern Management Corp., have rekindled interest in the city's core, not unlike the attention that greeted the Blaustein Building 42 years ago, said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

"You do see significant investment occurring in the city of Baltimore again," Fry said. "You see the cranes dotting the skyline, see the construction work under way. That is a good sign."

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