As global head of operations for Morgan Stanley, Stephen Daffron plans to travel this month to Mumbai, Shanghai and Tokyo.
This week he came to Baltimore to get his first look at Morgan Stanley's new business services center in the $100 million Thames Street Wharf building overlooking the waterfront.
During Thursday's wharfside dedication, Daffron told many of the company's 600 employees who work in the building that Morgan Stanley chose Baltimore because of the area's easy access to New York by train, the region's top colleges and universities, and a physical setting that can help the company attract and retain a talented work force.
"We're not here because it's a nice thing to do," Daffron said. "We're here because it's good business."
The dedication ceremony marked the completion of Morgan Stanley's monthlong move to Thames Street Wharf, an eight-level building at 1300 Thames St. It's the first of at least a dozen buildings envisioned for what has been called "Harbor Point," a mixed-use community planned for the former Allied Signal chromium plant property on a peninsula between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
Morgan Stanley, the world's largest brokerage, occupies just over half of the 277,000 square feet of space at Thames Street Wharf. Most employees at the site moved from two other Baltimore locations that are being vacated by midyear. But the Thames Street setting also gives the company room to expand. Robin Harris, the Baltimore office's managing director, said Thursday that Morgan Stanley is looking to fill about 50 positions.
The master plan that includes the Morgan Stanley building calls for up to 1.8 million square feet of space in 12 to 18 buildings over 27 acres. The project — which calls for offices, hotel rooms, residences, parking and open space — has an estimated cost of $800 million, and is expected to lead to 5,600 construction jobs and 3,200 permanent jobs.
H&S Properties Development Corp., founded by Baltimore businessman John Paterakis, began building Thames Street Wharf in January 2008. At the time, the company already had begun design work on a second and third building, with the idea that construction would begin as market conditions warranted. Then the recession hit, and funding dried up. Today, those sites are temporary parking lots.
Michael Beatty, president of H&S, said today's economic conditions are not unlike those a decade ago, when H&S was building a high-rise hotel that eventually became the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, in what is the now-bustling Harbor East.
Beatty expressed optimism that the former chromium plant site — which has undergone a $100 million cleanup and remediation — would fill up in the same way.
Beatty said H&S, which controls roughly 70 acres of waterfront property between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point, has no immediate construction plans at Harbor Point, but the development team continues to market its land and buildings to prospective users.
M. Jay Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said H&S would like to secure more than $100 million in tax-increment financing to help pay for roads, utilities and other infrastructure on the site, and the city will soon be holding a series of public meetings to present the development's latest plans.