When developers presented the city with plans for a new apartment and hotel tower on the Pratt Street lot opposite Harborplace, the proposed parking garage met with some skepticism.
Charles J. Murphy, a vice president at the Chicago-based firm that owns the parcel and invests in parking facilities across the country, is no stranger to those kinds of questions.
But Murphy makes the case that city planners, developers — even architects — ultimately like his firm's approach.
His company, InterPark, works with developers to create mixed-use projects in which the different components share one garage. That leads to easier financing, more intensive use of the facility and, ultimately, less parking overall, Murphy said.
"There's nighttime use, there's daytime use," said Murphy. "When you cross-utilize parking the way we're going to do at Pratt Street … it unifies the elements so you don't have this monster garage in an iconic location in the Inner Harbor."
Murphy, a Wisconsin native who entered real estate inspired by one of his college professors, started at InterPark in 1998 after a stint at GE Capital. About a quarter of the firm's 60 holdings have a mixed-use component, he said.
InterPark started investing in Baltimore in 1998 and owns two parking garages in the city. It scooped up the 300 E. Pratt St. parcel for $16.4 million in 2013 — 40 percent of what a previous developer paid before the housing market bust for the parking lot described by some as the missing tooth in the Inner Harbor skyline.
The company is working with Virginia's Comstock Partners to develop the site. The firms have proposed a 200-room hotel, 400 apartments, retail space and about 550 parking spots in a tower rising some 48 stories with a penthouse — which would be among the tallest in Baltimore.
Comstock is working to secure financing. Murphy said that's likely to take time given the deal's complexity, but he hopes construction will get started next year. Once complete, InterPark would own the garage while Comstock takes over the rest of the developed property.
"It's not the most glamorous business but ... we see our structure and the way we look at the real estate as helping development," Murphy said.
InterPark isn't worried about a glut of hotel rooms or apartments in Baltimore's market, said Murphy, who described the firm as a believer in urban America.
"What's interesting about residential is the more residential you build, the more demand you can capture because you're offering different price points," he said. "Every city has its challenges … so we don't shy away. We like density. We like to be in the cores and see Baltimore as a great place to be for a long time."