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Law Firm Moving From Baltimore County To Harbor East, Downsizing Footprint

The office building at 650 South Exeter St. in Baltimore.

Global law firm DLA Piper plans to move offices from Baltimore County to the city's Harbor East neighborhood, joining a steady flow of legal offices relocating to that area. 

The firm inked a decadelong lease at 650 South Exeter St., it announced Monday, describing the deal as part of a “high-performance flexibility strategy.” The firm is taking around 34K SF, downsizing from its current footprint of 123K SF at the Marbury Building in Pikesville, the Baltimore Sun reported

That plan’s goal, according to the firm, balances remote and in-office work in a bid to attract and retain top talent, while maintaining high-end client service.

“Our new space will include state-of-the-art technology and meeting facilities to support our lawyers’ delivery of excellent service to clients here and around the world,” Brett Ingerman, managing partner for DLA Piper's Baltimore office, said in a release.

Over the last two decades, law firms have required less space as files and law libraries are replaced with digital alternatives. The pandemic has also contributed to the downsizing trend as more employees work remotely. 

DLA Piper expects to move into the new office by June 2023 from its current home, which is located just outside the city near Mount Washington. The Exeter Street property is managed by Harbor East Management Group. JLL represented the firm in its move, and Gensler will handle the new space’s design. 

Mayor Brandon Scott hailed the move as a boon for downtown Baltimore

“This is an exciting time for our downtown area, especially as our businesses emerge from the pandemic, and having a firm of DLA Piper's caliber anchor one of our premiere buildings is a true testament to the area’s reputation as a great place to do business with potential to grow and thrive," Scott said in a release. 

Corporate neighbors already in Harbor East include JP Morgan, T. Rowe Price, Exelon, Bank of America and Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. 

A pair of other respected law firms — Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and Gordon Feinblatt LLC — have relocated or announced intentions to move to Harbor East from the city’s traditional central business district within the last 18 months, the Baltimore Sun reported.   

The success of Harbor East, which is located to the east of the city’s Inner Harbor, has come at the expense of Baltimore’s traditional downtown. 

Property owners and brokers working in the oldest sections of downtown for years have complained that new developments along the city’s waterfront only poach existing tenants from older buildings and have not resulted in net new businesses coming to the city and backfilling vacant space.   

While businesses flow toward Harbor East, buildings in the traditional central business district — located roughly east of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, west of President Street and south of Pleasant Street — struggle with high vacancy.

Vacancy rates in the traditional central business district are 5% higher, and the average direct asking rate for rent is more than $2.50 per SF lower than the citywide average, according to JLL’s second-quarter report on the Baltimore-area office market.

There have been some victories for buildings in the traditional business district during the last year.  

In May, 25 South Charles St. landed the largest lease in the metro area when the state of Maryland signed a deal for more than 149K SF. Law firm Ballard Spahr opted to remain in the central business district when it signed a long-term lease in October at 111 South Calvert St.