While Exelon is not revealing its short list of possible sites for the new building, local real estate brokers and others have identified several attractive potential locations, including some in the core business center and one between Harbor East and Fells Point.
The city's major office construction projects in recent years have included the Thames Street Wharf building anchored by Morgan Stanley and the Legg Mason Tower on the Harbor East waterfront. In the central business district, the last new skyscraper, at 500 E. Pratt St., was completed in 2004.
Some see a new building for Exelon as a spur to economic growth in the city.
"Having a new corporate headquarters in downtown Baltimore will stimulate all kinds of growth," said Rod Easter, president of the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council, a coalition of 15 construction unions that is expected to be involved in building the new headquarters. "I just see it as an economic boost."
But others fear that a new structure would hurt the city's business center by creating an excess supply of office space. The vacancy rate for the downtown central business district now hovers at 19 percent; 10 percent is considered healthy.
"A new headquarters building quite frankly makes no economic sense to either the shareholders of the company or the economic vitality of downtown Baltimore," said Robert Manekin, managing director and principal at the commercial brokerage firm Colliers International in Baltimore.
Many developers responded to a request for proposals that Exelon's commercial real estate broker put out in August. By late October, Exelon had picked proposals from nine developers.
Since then, the Chicago energy giant has narrowed the field, though the company would not reveal details about the sites being considered because it is in active negotiations, Exelon spokeswoman Judith Rader said.
One thing is clear: The new headquarters will be big. The request for proposals asked for 350,000 to 375,000 square feet.
Even though the combined company would be based in Chicago, the new Baltimore headquarters would house the merged entity's power-selling and renewable energy businesses, which are expected to grow.
Exelon said it would either assume the project itself or find a developer willing to undertake the construction by agreeing to a 15-year lease.
"We will announce our selected site after the merger closes," Rader said in a statement.
One local developer said he had submitted a fully financed proposal to build a 400,000-square-foot, 25-story building downtown.
J. Joseph Clarke of J.J. Clarke Enterprises said Exelon's broker and other principals have interviewed him about his proposed project on the site of the old Southern Hotel at 1 Light Street, noting that talks have continued weekly.
Clarke said his proposal was attractive because "it's in the heart of Baltimore's traditional business district."
"It would transform this neighborhood … and it's right on the Metro," Clarke said, adding that he was also still pursuing a housing development at the same site as a backup plan.
Other potential sites include the old McCormick spice plant on Conway and Light streets; the old News American building on East Pratt Street; and Harbor Point between Harbor East and Fells Point.