Developer proposes to convert some Exelon office space to apartments
By By Larry Perl and Baltimore Sun Media Group
Sep 27, 2013 | 11:34 AM
The planned Exelon Corp. building at Harbor Point now calls for 103 apartments — 116,000 square feet of residential space — where office space was originally planned, Beatty Development Group representatives told the Baltimore City Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel Thursday.
But the review board, questioning whether the new plans would render its earlier approval of the project "null and void," refused to grant revised final approval and urged Beatty Development Group to make further design revisions, including to the lobby.
"We'd like you to come back," panel member Gary Bowden said.
Although apartments have always been part of Beatty's plans, they were not envisioned until Phases II or III, later in the development process. The newly announced studio and 1–bedroom apartments would be built in Phase I, said Jonathan Flesher, senior development director for Beatty Development Group.
Flesher said the apartments would replace roughly 116,000 square feet of office space and would be a more efficient use of the space.
Flesher said the change is being proposed to make the project more of a mixed-use development, and that it would help in marketing the building.
A trading floor and a parking garage are still part of the plans, but now it would be apartments wrapping around the garage instead of office space, he said. The design has been tweaked accordingly, he said, because without changes, many of the apartments would have had no windows.
Darrell Doan, managing director of real estate development for the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public economic development arm, said after the hearing that the proposed change "increases the viability of the project."
But UDARP members said they had problems with some design aspects of the building, which they said were changed from the original concept.
In January, the energy giant, which acquired Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group last year, won UDARP schematic approval for a brick-and-glass regional headquarters with a tower that would rise 23 stories and 350 feet as part of a $250 million first phase of Harbor Point development.
In other action, panel members also held off on approving a final master plan for the planned 25th Street Station shopping center on 11 acres in Remington, and also balked at giving revised final approval for Wal-Mart's plans as anchor. UDARP recommended that the developer, WV Urban Development, come back before the panel, said Anthony Cataldo, UDARP coordinator.
WV Urban Development presented new plans, as expected, that no longer call for a building with an urban Wal-mart on top and a Lowe's on the bottom. Lowe's long ago pulled out of the project and the Wal-mart would grow about 10,000 square feet to about 104,000 square feet, taking over a garden center that was originally supposed to be part of Lowe's. A parking garage is no longer called for, and there now would be a surface parking lot with about 1,000 spaces, WV representatives told UDARP.
"So far, fine," said City Councilman Carl Stokes, who added that he wants to hear community comment in the coming weeks.
Members of the city review panel questioned the aesthetics of the project, saying that brick walls on either side of the Wal-mart entrance are overpowering and blank, and in need of landscaping or screening.
Joan Floyd, president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, said the entrances and exits at the shopping center do not make the development pedestrian-friendly enough and represent "a missed opportunity."