The NAACP relocated its national headquarters from Northwest Baltimore to the Wells Fargo Tower downtown in a move that the organization described as part of its “strategic reset.”
The nation’s oldest civil rights group announced that the shift reflects a national expansion effort that would strengthen its ability to effect change in communities. A similar office “expansion” also occurred in Washington, the NAACP said.
The NAACP’s resettling in Baltimore’s central business district comes amid the organization’s quest to revamp its brand into one that keeps pace with a fast-paced news cycle and protest climate.
In a statement, Leon W. Russell, the chair of the NAACP’s board of directors, said the move supports the organization’s advocacy and policy priorities.
"We are embarking on a relentless pursuit to position the Association to be more agile and responsive in the face of the serious challenges confronting communities of color,” he said.
More than 30 NAACP employees moved into temporary space in the Wells Fargo building in late 2019.
The roughly 380,000-square-foot Wells Fargo Tower is about 70% leased and includes nearly 114,000 vacant square feet, according to the real estate research firm CoStar Group. The property is managed by Cushman & Wakefield and owned by Hertz Investment Group. The firm first acquired the building in 2018 for $15 million, property records show.
David Downey, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, said the NAACP will take up the approximately 20,000 square feet of the building’s 12th floor. He said the organization’s relocation positions it among other area businesses, public transportation and the constituents it represents.
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“[Hertz] invested a lot over the last 12 months in tenant amenities and lobby improvements, and the NAACP folks saw that and commented that it’s one of the reasons it became the final choice," he said.
The NAACP owns the building where its headquarters used to be on Mount Hope Drive near Lochearn. Built in 1955, the 43,454-square-foot structure, valued by the state for tax purposes at $3.8 million, is set to be included in a sustainable redesign competition, the organization said in a statement.
Top officials from the NAACP said the new downtown headquarters coincides with the influx of new staffers, roles and technologies.
“This move positions the NAACP to more effectively mobilize resources to support our units for decades to come,” said Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s president and CEO, in a statement. "It affirms the NAACP’s resilience and needed role at a time when the fight for justice is more urgent than ever.”
The relocation to the downtown area also reflects the growing attractiveness of urban areas with more walkability and accessible amenities to some workplaces.
Kirby Fowler, president of Baltimore booster organization Downtown Partnership, said the move demonstrates the activist organization’s strong relationship with the city. He added that the downtown area has seen encouraging job growth and population expansion that will be enhanced by the NAACP’s move as well as the gradual shift of a dozen Maryland state agencies into the area.
“The NAACP recognizes that being downtown, they’ll be able to attract talent more easily,” he said. “If businesses want to be in a transit-connected area with a fast-growing population right next door, this is the place to be.”