A vacant historic building in southwest Baltimore is slated to reopen in December, in what is a big step for its developer and a sign of increasing private investment in the area.
Cross Street Partners, co-founded by storied Baltimore developer Bill Struever, closed on the financing and started construction at the Lion Brothers Building at 875 Hollins Street last month.
Though Cross Street has served as a consultant and manager for numerous properties around the city, this is the first project in which the firm is both owner and developer to start construction.
"It's a big deal for us," the firm's development director, John Renner, said in an interview before the firm's groundbreaking celebration Wednesday, which sent music into nearby streets.
The Lion Brothers Building, a former manufacturing site that has been empty since 2002, is affiliated with the University of Maryland BioPark located nearby. Cross Street's decision to pursue the property grew out of its work with biopark developer Wexford Science + Technology in Baltimore and other cities, Renner said.
"We've worked with them on their community engagement strategy around the country, and we thought what better way to put our money where our mouth is than to do a project kind of on the periphery of one of the innovation districts," said Renner.
The organization of nearby neighborhoods into the Southwest Partnership umbrella group, which came together around a master plan for the area, also played a role, he added.
The 37,500-square-foot building is about two-thirds leased, with Enterprise Homes, the development arm of the Enterprise Community Partners, Baltimore Community Lending and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's intermedia and digital arts graduate program taking space. Cross Street also will be located in the building. About 10,000 feet are still available.
Financing for the roughly $11.7 million project includes state and federal historic tax credits, federal New Markets Tax Credits, a state grant, and debt, Cross Street said.
Cross Street and the BioPark signed an agreement a few months ago to establish the partnership, addresses issues such as parking and security as well as Cross Street's contribution to the BioPark's community fund, said Jim Hughes, president of the nonprofit that runs the BioPark.
"We're excited that the success of the BioPark is spreading a little deeper into the community," he said.
Cross Street also is eyeing other opportunities in the area, Renner said.
"We'd like to continue to work in the neighborhood," he said. "We're not interested in one-off projects. We like to invest in an area and stay in that area a long time."
This story has been updated to correct the circumstances of the founding of Cross Street Partners. The Sun regrets the error.