T. Rowe Price's commitment to 100 Pratt St.

ARCHITECTURE

September 19, 2005|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,sun architecture critic

The 10-story office building at 100 E. Pratt St. is one of the oldest and most recognizable structures in Baltimore's Inner Harbor renewal area, a fixture on the downtown skyline and in the backdrops of local TV newscasts.

Now it's also one of the first Inner Harbor buildings to get an extensive interior makeover, 31 years after it opened.

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., the investment firm that became one of the building's first tenants when it moved to the eighth and ninth floors 30 years ago this month, has signed a lease to be the sole office tenant on floors two through 10 at least until 2016 - more than 360,000 square feet in all. The first floor will continue to house lobbies and retail space leased by others.

As part of that decision, T. Rowe Price has hired the Baltimore office of Gensler, a large architectural firm, to design floor-by-floor renovations that will upgrade the office environment, as well as improve mechanical and electrical systems. The remodeling is expected to continue until early 2008.

"We have a commitment to downtown. We're going to be here until 2016. We want to improve the space," said Carol Blanar, director of facilities for T. Rowe Price.

Blanar and chief financial officer Kenneth Moreland said company officials considered other options but decided to consolidate downtown employees at 100 E. Pratt St. because it's a well-designed and well-maintained building that meets the company's space needs. T. Rowe Price also has a corporate campus in Owings Mills.

"It definitely speaks to how we like to work, with its large floor plates, and the location is right for our employees," Blanar said of the Pratt Street building.

As part of the improvements, "we'll be renovating all of the floors," she said. "We want to bring in more natural light. We want to encourage collaboration [among employees], open up corridors, make it more interactive."

Other work will range from installing new computer equipment and upgrading life safety systems to creating additional meeting rooms and improving the appearance of stairwells.

Blanar and Moreland declined to reveal what the company plans to spend on the overhaul, except to say that it's well in excess of the standard landlord allowances for tenant improvements. In contrast to many other companies, T. Rowe Price did not seek or accept subsidies from the city or state to stay downtown or carry out the renovations, they say. "This retrofit will demonstrate our commitment to downtown," Moreland said. "It's a significant expenditure in terms of raw dollars."

The renovated building will house approximately 1,000 T. Rowe Price employees from a variety of departments, including investment management, corporate services, customer services, retirement plan services and marketing, plus the company's street-level Investor Center. Many already work in the building; others will be moving from 200 St. Paul St.

Designed by noted architect Pietro Belluschi, with Emery Roth and Sons, the building was completed in 1974 on the block bounded by Pratt, Calvert, Lombard and Light streets. That was years before the opening of the Maryland Science Center, Harborplace or the National Aquarium.

When it opened, the structure was known as the IBM Building, because IBM Corp. was the original owner and one of the largest occupants. The building has since changed hands several times and gained a 28-story midblock addition, which opened in 1992 and is not part of the current renovation project.

Many longtime Baltimoreans still refer to the 10-story portion as "the IBM Building," even though IBM hasn't owned it for many years.

Blanar said T. Rowe Price's lease gives it the option to put its name on the building.

"We have the right to do it," she said, but "we haven't come to any conclusions about that."

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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