B’more’s Most Promising Projects
Bisnow’s Baltimore State of the Market event is this Thursday (sign up here), so to get into the spirit, we sought out the most promising project and news in each sector. Good things are happening!
1) Ultra luxury living on the Inner Harbor
Baltimore City’s 95% apartment occupancy rate indicates an opportunity for developers to add supply, and Questar Properties CEO Stephen Gorn says the ultra luxury segment, in particular, is underserved. His company wants to build something the likes of which the city hasn’t seen before, along the lines of resort-style projects in primary markets like Chicago, San Fran, Boston, and New York. Hence the 43 stories (372 apartments and 12,500 SF of retail) that will break ground at 414 Light St in Q4, thanks to UDARP’s speedy approval of the developer’s plan. The unique site, an undeveloped parcel on the harbor that’s also got history as the former McCormick & Co site, is another factor that calls for a landmark building, he says. First units will deliver in Q4 ’16 and the entirety in summer ’17.
The architect, Devon Patterson of Solomon Cordwell Buenz, has designed for those cities mentioned above, but he's also lived in Baltimore, Stephen tells us, a combo of national design prestige and Baltimore roots. Questar itself has built 13,000 homes and apartments in Maryland, over 3,000 of them in Baltimore City. Stephen says the LEED Silver or better 414 Light will have over 40k SF of amenities, 27k of them outside. Above the parking garage, seven stories up, will be herb gardens, a pool overlooking the harbor with cabanas, even a dog park (no dog pool, though). And on the 34th floor is a meeting/entertainment spot with a full-service kitchen and a terrace.
2) Shake Shack is coming…
David Leibowits of PDL Pratt Associates, which owns 400 E Pratt, calls his new tenant the most exciting fast-casual restaurant out there. (You'll agree when you have a shake.) The concept, from NY restaurateur Danny Meyer, has six NYC locations, one in Jersey, two in Philly, and three in DC (plus three in Florida and four abroad), and Baltimore was the logical next step, David says.
…with outdoor seating
Shake Shack’s choice of the Inner Harbor speaks highly of public and private efforts to make Pratt a pedestrian-friendly corridor. The restaurant and its outdoor seating will sit at Commerce and Pratt (rendered above), M&T’s branch is moving from the corner of Gay and Pratt to midblock, and PDL and the C&W leasing folks are talking to more retailers about the 5,500 SF between Shake Shack and M&T and about the Gay and Pratt corner.
3) The renovated Lord Baltimore Hotel is here…
Room rates at the Rubell family’s recently redone hotel are up $50 since the Miami-based art enthusiasts bought the property from Radisson in March 2013, the hotel’s Lee Johnson tells us. The goal was to return the 1928-vintage hotel to its former glory and improve its rates, though keep it affordable.
…with rooftops and art…
Above: the French Kitchen restaurant. Lee says regional staycationers from NoVa and DC and Pennsylvania's Harrisburg, State College, and Philly, are feeding in a lot of business, but so is group travel. The ballroom space is more flexible than before the renovation and now can fit 1,200, and there are breakout rooms. But the coolest change is the addition of two rooftop spots suited for VIP receptions and post-event parties, the largest of which accommodates 150. (Great, we've got the venue with the menu. Now we just need a fiance.) The new-and-improved hotel, Lee says, celebrates the six members of the Calvert family—the Lords of Baltimore—and the Rubells’ love of art. That includes portraits of the Calverts and 2,000 unique artworks, including Pollock-esque drip paintings and Hirst-esque dot art in every room (below).
…and ghosts and a speakeasy
History shines through, too. As the tallest hotel during the Depression, the hotel unfortunately was a logical suicide leap, including for a legend-making family of three; the little girl, Molly, is said to haunt the 19th floor. And during renovations, a two-story speakeasy was uncovered that Lee describes as a storage closet with a cutout in the ceiling that leads to a loft where drinkers could watch the entrance with two-way mirrors. The hotel is working on permits to reopen it.
4) M&T’s office search
M&T Bank’s lease will expire next year, and despite a 16% Downtown vacancy rate, there’s no place big enough for it other than its current home at 25 S Charles. (Almost a year ago, Bisnow floated the idea that it could consider the site of Questar’s coming apartment building, a move illustrated above. We’ll pretend M&T just didn’t hear us.)
Colliers’ Gary Applestein (right, with colleague Steve Weiss) tells us vacancy improves, though, north of Baltimore City, except for Owings Mills, which he says has the largest supply in the metro, including the 115k SF, renovated BECO Towers he’s leasing. That doesn’t mean no big blocks will open up Downtown. Baltimore is, as always, a shuffling deck, Gary says, and once Exelon moves to Harbor Point in 2016, it’ll open up 250k SF in the Candler Building and 135k SF in 750 E Pratt. Both are on the reinvigorated Pratt Street corridor and don’t lend themselves to the residential conversion trend.
5) Industrial build-to-suits
A lack of Class-A warehouse space is steering corporate users to build-to-suits like Coca-Cola's 291k SF in Hanover and Feld Entertainment's 192k SF in a 242k SF building going up in Jessup, says JLL's Rob Foa. Land supply is constrained, too. That's especially true in the B-W Corridor, but it's starting north of Baltimore, as well, and thus average rents finally have started ticking up. JLL also expects users to look south more, to Prince George's County, where 1.2M SF will deliver within 15 months.