W.B. Doner & Co. nears an agreement to move offices to Inner Harbor Center


W.B. Doner & Co. is close to an agreement to move its offices to Pratt Street from midtown Baltimore in a deal that would stabilize one of downtown's most vacancy-plagued office buildings.

Herbert Fried, chairman of Doner, the state's biggest advertising agency, said negotiations with the owners of the Inner Harbor Center building at 400 E. Pratt St. could wrap up within weeks.

"The decision has been made, but has the deal been completed? No," Mr. Fried said. "Nothing is signed. I'm keeping all my options open."

Mr. Fried's agency has been looking at alternatives to its 33,000-square-foot leased space at 2305 N. Charles Street since at least April. But because the lease on the Charles Street space does not expire until 1995, a deal a few weeks from now would mark a quicker-than-expected conclusion.

The agency, if lease talks are successful, would move its 150 employees to 40,000 square feet at 400 E. Pratt near the end of the year, Mr. Fried said. The space was part of the offices due to be vacated this weekend by RTKL Associates Inc., an architecture firm that is moving up the street to Commerce Place, a new building on South Street between Baltimore and Redwood streets.

While Mr. Fried would not discuss details of the lease, including the rent, he did acknowledge that price was a major factor in the firm's decision. Brokers for other buildings that competed for Doner said the advertising firm appeared to suffer from "sticker shock" when looking at a downtown market normally more expensive than the midtown area.

"I think [Inner Harbor Center] fit our needs best," Mr. Fried said. "Certainly price . . . is a factor in our decision-making."

Mr. Fried also declined to describe how his firm would get out of the Charles Street lease, saying he would not discuss specific negotiations until they were completed.

Inner Harbor Center was in a better position to compete on price because its owners, a group led by Peter D. Leibowits Co. of Greenwich, Conn., negotiated a major reduction in the amount of the mortgage on their building earlier this year. That gives them a lower cost basis than buildings such as Commerce Place and 100 E. Pratt St. that also bid for the Doner deal.

Inner Harbor Center also has a separate stream of income from daily parkers in an attached garage that is much bigger than necessary to serve the building's tenants.

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