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Law Firm Opts To Donate Baltimore Office Space Instead Of Subleasing

Rather than attempting to sublease its unwanted office space, law firm Baker Donelson has decided to donate an entire floor of its Baltimore offices in one of the skyline’s most prominent buildings.

The office building at 100 Light St. in Baltimore.

Baker Donelson said Tuesday it is donating more than 15K SF to The Light of Baltimore Incubator to house 30 small businesses on the 23rd floor of 100 Light St. for the next year. The firm held an event with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott to announce the donation. 

“There's a lot of people working remotely," Baker Donelson Managing Shareholder Jennifer Curry said. "As a result, we consolidated our offices, and we had this space free [that] we certainly could have sublet it, but we wanted to use it for something a little more innovative and imaginative."

Baker Donelson following the donation occupies floors 19 through 22 at 100 Light St., which totals about 77K SF in the building, according to CoStar. Baker Donelson signed a 15 year lease on the office space that is set to expire in March 2025. The incubator space is located on the 23rd floor.

The building is owned by Corporate Office Properties Trust, which bought it in 2015. During the last several years COPT invested more than $20M to reposition the building.

Jennifer Curry, Baker Donelson managing shareholder, and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott during and Oct. 11, 2022, news conference. Curry announces the donation of Baker Donelson's 23rd-floor office space at 100 Light St.

There is more than 985K SF of sublease vacancy in the Baltimore metro area, according to JLL’s third-quarter office report. The report found that occupancy gains were outpaced by moveouts and downsizing, resulting in more than 774K SF of office space coming back on the market this year.

Terri Harrington, the founder of Harrington Commercial Real Estate, praised the creative use of unneeded office space, an approach more tenants may adopt when they can’t sublease with years left on their lease. 

“With the amount of subleases available out there, it shows being creative … it requires outside-the-box thinking,” Harrington, who wasn't involved with the donation, told Bisnow.  

The idea to turn the space over for small business started with Curry calling her law school classmate Alicia Wilson, vice president of economic development and community partnerships at Johns Hopkins. Through that collaboration, the idea for the incubator started to emerge.

The view of Baltimore from the 23rd floor of 100 Light St, where Baker Donelson donated its space to The Light of Baltimore Incubator.

The Light of Baltimore Incubator is a partnership between Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. Firms in the partnership offer emerging businesses “mentorship, legal, and marketing support.”

“I love small businesses. I love our Black-owned businesses and our women-owned businesses,” Wilson said. 

Businesses using Baker Donelson’s former space include real estate developers, cybersecurity firms and lawyers.

Mark Reed’s firm, Superior Real Estate Management & Development, is one of the firms with space at 100 Light St. His firm has delivered or is in the process of rebuilding 23 homes in the last two years on East Chase Street. The office space, Reed said, positions his business to take its next step.

“We plan to continue to grow and expand, and by these generous gifts, we've been able to have an office right here, in beautiful downtown with a beautiful view of the [Inner] Harbor,” Reed said.

CORRECTION, OCT. 13, 8:45 A.M. ET: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Alicia Wilson, vice president of economic development and community partnerships at Johns Hopkins.