Former Alex. Brown investment bank building to be converted to a restaurant

A Florida family and a Baltimore developer are teaming up to transform the former Alex Brown investment bank building into an upscale restaurant that pays homage to the Baltimore financial institution.

The 170-seat Alexander Brown Restaurant, at 135 E. Baltimore St., is expected to open in June.

Blake Casper, who is based in Tampa, said he was attracted to the opportunity to play a role in bringing a historic Baltimore building back to life through a new use.

“As soon as we walked in the space, it was love at first sight,” said Casper, who is a co-owner of the Oxford Exchange, a restaurant and retail concept in Tampa.

Built in 1901, the brick building served as the home of the country’s oldest investment bank, Alex. Brown. It most recently housed a Capital One branch.

Alex. Brown, later known as Alex. Brown & Sons, was founded in 1800 by an Irish immigrant and linen merchant, and became a legacy company in Baltimore. It was acquired by Bankers Trust Corp. in 1997 and two years later, Deutsche Bank acquired Bankers Trust, rebranding Alex. Brown under its own name.

Casper, his sister Allison Adams, and the Griswold family, descendants of Brown, share ownership of the building and will be equal partners in the restaurant.

They will work with local developer Cary M. Euwer Jr. to restore the building’s original marble, oversized windows and Tiffany-style dome skylight.

Euwer’s firm Metropolitan Partnership, based in Reston, Va., redeveloped the nearby 10 Light St. office building with luxury apartments.

Euwer said he jumped at the chance to work on a project that would bring upscale dining to the neighborhood — an amenity at the top of his tenants’ wish lists.

“The number one request is for more food and beverage options,” Euwer said.

The project, which will be supported by federal historic tax credits, will entail removing anything that isn’t original and bringing back to life what is, Euwer said.

At the center of the main room, beneath the enormous dome skylight, Casper and Euwer plan to erect a circular bar. There will be bank seating around the perimeter of the main room, with additional tables and a private event room farther back.

Casper said the Oxford Exchange, located inside a former stable built for the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891, will serve as a guide for the Baltimore project.

The design of the Oxford Exchange preserves the building’s historic features, and brings together a restaurant, retail and a co-working space.

The Alexander Brown Restaurant will serve up steaks, seafood and other hearty American fare for dinner, with lighter salads and sandwiches.

With a full bar and ample seating, Casper said he hopes the restaurant will be “buzzy” and serve as a center of social activity in the neighborhood.

The Caspers and the Griswolds also jointly own the adjacent building, 125 E. Baltimore St., which is currently occupied by a Rite Aid. Casper said he intends to turn that building into retail space after the pharmacy’s lease expires in 2020.

Separate from the Alex. Brown venture, Casper and Adams run their family business, Caspers Co., which manages more than 50 McDonald’s restaurant locations in Florida.

A firm called Brown Exchange LLC, based in Tampa, acquired the nearly 28,000-square-foot Rite Aid building for $2.7 million in May, according to state property records. The Alex Brown building, valued by the state at just under $2 million, is owned by Brown Realty L.P.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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