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Office living: Harbor Point building, others, double down on mixed-use

The new black tower on Baltimore's skyline may be most associated with Exelon, the energy company that plans to move into the building in October.

But the corporate giant will be sharing its glassy headquarters with some smaller names: an expected 103 apartment dwellers.

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The tenants, the first residents to put down roots in the new Harbor Point development, are the latest example of office living in the city and offer a preview of more to come.

In the downtown area, the developers of 1 Light Street are planning a mix of office and residential space inside a new 28-story tower. A few blocks west at 2 Hopkins Plaza, Berman Enterprises plans to top federal office space with 182 apartments in a former PNC bank building.

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Baltimore is known for its distinctive neighborhoods, with block after block of rowhouses. But a number of people also opt for apartment buildings and condos. Here's a look at some of the most notable.

These kinds of combinations aren't new, but they are unusual in a city where buildings dominated by a single purpose — maybe with a strip of ground-floor retail — remain the norm. Many of the new apartments the city has added in recent years have been located in buildings abandoned by office users.

Officials from Beatty Development Group, the firm behind the 20-story Exelon tower, said the mix is part of a broader push for more urban living and reflects practices common in other cities.

"There's a trend toward more true mixed-use development," said Beatty Development vice president Marco Greenberg, who previously worked in Harbor East. "We're just repeating and updating what we know."

The 1305 Dock St. apartments, initially planned as office space, were also a design fix to shield much of the parking garage from view.

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For decades, office rents commanded higher rates, but as downtown living has grown more desirable — and demand for office space has slowed — apartments have become a more important part of the mix, even in smaller markets like Baltimore's.

Mixed uses also distribute the risk of development, shielding developers from reliance on a single, large tenant such as Exelon.

"It's not something we see very often" outside of larger cities like New York, where land is scarce, said William Rich, director of the multifamily practice for Delta Associates, a Washington research and advisory firm. "It happens in smaller-scale developments, but now we're starting to see some examples in Baltimore of a larger-scale type of development that has that mix."

Rhe living room area of a third floor one-bedroom model apartment at No. 1305 Dock Street apartments haas a view looking west toward the Inner Harbor. There are 103 rental units, including studios and one and two bedroom apartments in the Exelon Tower at Harbor Point.
Rhe living room area of a third floor one-bedroom model apartment at No. 1305 Dock Street apartments haas a view looking west toward the Inner Harbor. There are 103 rental units, including studios and one and two bedroom apartments in the Exelon Tower at Harbor Point. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Multipurpose buildings can be more complicated to coordinate, requiring separate entrances, separate elevators and other systems.

"You don't want office workers wandering through residential hallways" and vice versa, Greenberg said. But "when you're talking to lenders and investors that see the value [of mixed use] … it's a matter of working out those details."

At 2 Hopkins Plaza, people headed to the Army Corps of Engineers district headquarters will be routed to "floor zero," while tenants of the residential units get the benefit of the soaring ceilings of the first-floor lobby, said Kevin Berman, a vice president at Rockville-based Berman Enterprises, which hopes to open the apartments next spring.

In the 1305 Dock St. building, residents enter via a two-story lobby, with a mail room on the ground floor and a communal space on the second floor. When Exelon moves to the site this fall, corporate visitors will enter from the other side of the building.

Kathleen Bands Schindler, 28, who moved from Timonium to a one-bedroom unit in the Dock Street building in June, said she is unfazed by the prospect of 1,500 new neighbors reporting to work, even if they may increase competition in the roughly 750-space parking garage.

"It may be an issue in the future, but I can't really see that being too big of a deal," she said. "It doesn't really seem that different from living somewhere where you're next to an office building."

Schindler, who pays about $1,800 a month for her harbor-facing fourth-floor unit, said she was drawn by the location, confidence in property manager The Bozzuto Group, and other features, such as a combined clothes washer-dryer, speedy internet service and a concierge to handle packages and other mail.

Looking northwest toward Harbor East from the second floor of No. 1305 Dock Street apartments, located in the Exelon Tower at Harbor Point. There are 103 rental units, including studios and one and two bedroom apartments.
Looking northwest toward Harbor East from the second floor of No. 1305 Dock Street apartments, located in the Exelon Tower at Harbor Point. There are 103 rental units, including studios and one and two bedroom apartments. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The $270 million Exelon tower and garage is an early phase of construction on the 27-acre Harbor Point site, which started with the Thames Street Wharf building occupied by Morgan Stanley. Beatty Development also has started work there on the Point Street Apartments, planned as an 18-story tower with 285 units, with an office-hotel fusion building expected to follow.

Schindler, one of more than 60 tenants who have rented apartments since pre-leasing started in March, said the construction activity doesn't bother her. If anything, she's looking forward to the restaurants, shopping and other services expected to open this fall.

West Elm, a furniture retailer, is hoping to open in September, while Ceremony Coffee Roasters, growing fast-casual eatery honeygrow and CorePower Yoga also have been announced as tenants.

"Just to walk out of your door and be able to access so many things is just incredible, coming from the county life," Schindler said.

With signs suggesting more people feel that way, Stockton Williams, executive director of the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing, said he expects developers to embark on more such multipurpose buildings, despite the complications.

Companies such as WeWork and a new venture launched by Washington developer Conrad Cafritz are already betting that the boundaries between work and home will become further blurred, he said. Both WeWork and Cafritz are redeveloping offices with residential space.

"It's just another indicator that you'll probably see more of this in Baltimore and other cities," he said.

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