Blue Cross will consolidate HMO headquarters downtown


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland said yesterday that it will consolidate its health maintenance organization headquarters in the Equitable Bank Center II building downtown and move 160 employees to Baltimore from Cockeysville.

CFS Health Group Inc., a Blues subsidiary that is the parent of the CareFirst, FreeState, Potomac and Delmarva health plans, will expand its 43,000-square-foot occupancy in the building to about 91,000 square feet. The seven-year deal was valued by city officials at about $11 million.

"We were looking for the opportunity to bring our organization together," said David D. Wolf, president of CFS. Employees will begin the move this weekend.

Mr. Wolf said the fact that CFS already had offices at the bank center contributed to its selection over the Candler Building in downtown's Market Place and locations in White Marsh, Towson and Owings Mills.

Blue Cross is expanding into space vacated in August by USF&G; Corp., said John Burch, senior vice president of Ackerman & Co., which owns the bank center. The Blue Cross deal boosts the bank center's occupancy to 97 percent, he said.

A USF&G; spokeswoman, Kerrie Burch-DeLuca, said the insurance company last month reached a buyout of its remaining lease commitment to the building.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke called the move "testimony to the value of doing business downtown." The Baltimore Development Corp. worked with Blue Cross and Ackerman to keep the HMO group in the city.

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