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Renovations at 100 Light Street to be unveiled

Owners of the office tower at 100 Light St. in Baltimore — vacated last year by Legg Mason Inc. — have nearly completed $45 million worth of renovations, including a newly landscaped plaza and other amenities they hope will help attract new tenants.

Representatives from Lexington Realty Trust, the building's New York-based owner, plan to join city and state officials on Thursday to unveil the upgrades to the 35-story building and surrounding area. Other changes include a refurbished lobby and 522-space garage across Lombard Street.

Will Eglin, Lexington Realty's chief executive, said Legg Mason's move last year to Harbor East provided an opportunity to make improvements and that leasing agents with Cassidy Turley have been showing its former space to prospective tenants.

"We think that the interest is a result of what we're doing," Eglin said. "We think we've made the building a much more desirable location, and we think that's very important in terms of attracting tenants."

The largest lease signed since Legg Mason's departure was for the law firm Ober Kaler, which is scheduled to occupy 94,213 square feet over six levels by April 2011. Eglin said the 530,000-square-foot building is now 47 percent leased, with rates ranging from about $27 to $35 per square foot. Lexington Realty is aiming to complete all of the improvements by year's end.

Opened in 1974, the 530-foot-high tower is one of the tallest and most prominent buildings in downtown Baltimore. It was designed by the noted Washington architect Vlastimil Koubek to be a "punctuation point" on the city skyline, as opposed to the more horizontal buildings that line Pratt and Light streets.

Legg Mason was the Light Street building's largest tenant. Its move, part of a recent trend of companies relocating to new buildings east of Baltimore's traditional central business district, freed up 330,000 square feet of space, including upper floors with sweeping harbor views.

Koubek designed the tower to occupy just 17 percent of the city block bounded by Charles, Pratt, Light and Lombard streets, with a relatively barren granite plaza occupying the rest of the block. As part of the improvements, Lexington Realty and its architect, Design Collective of Baltimore, added trees, plant beds and other elements that soften its hardscape nature to make it a more inviting place to sit and linger.

The design team added glass and steel pylons, planter walls, seating, gardens and a trellis to create an "outdoor urban room." Creating a greener and more appealing plaza was one of the development team's top priorities, Eglin said.

"We felt that the outdoor space was very inhospitable and dehumanizing in its previous incarnation," he said.

Another significant change was the removal of horizontal granite slabs in front of the windows on most levels of the office tower that partly obscured views. According to Eglin, more than 2.6 linear miles of granite were carefully removed from the ledges of the building, and much of it was salvaged and incorporated in the plaza below.

The designers also introduced a variety of environmentally friendly features, such as energy-efficient lighting and efforts to reduce the property's rainwater runoff.

Eglin said he was especially proud that the exterior work was completed without disturbing two peregrine falcons that have a nest on a ledge on the 33rd floor. The mother falcon laid five eggs this spring, the first since Legg Mason moved out of the building, and one hatched several weeks ago. Federal officials say approximately 100 falcons have hatched there since the late 1970s, a factor that contributed to the falcons' removal from the country's endangered species list in 1999.

Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, said he hopes other property owners will follow Lexington Realty's lead in upgrading older buildings downtown.

"The recession sent a wakeup call to owners of some of the older properties" Fowler said. Many of them "need to invest their time and money to reinvigorate their buildings to compete not only on a local level but on a regional level."

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