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Construction firm offers plan for Redwood Center


A Laurel construction company has filed a plan with the city to raze a portion of the Redwood Center office complex downtown in the hopes of reviving the derelict property.

Orion Construction Corp.'s plan for the two-building complex at the intersection of Calvert and Redwood streets calls for the demolition of a vacant 12-story office tower at 26 S. Calvert St., as well as the purchase from the city of Mercer Street, which splits the two structures.

Orion intends to replace the razed building and a portion of the street with a 300-space parking garage, according to plans filed with the city.

The remaining Redwood Center building, an eight-story tower at 131 E. Redwood St., would be renovated and leased to office tenants. Orion also would connect the eight-level garage to the 75,000-square-foot building.

The cost of the demolition, renovation and new construction is estimated at $10 million.

"This is part of our business plan to acquire Class B buildings in Baltimore," said Dekermu Nushann, Orion's vice president of finance and administration. "We think there's a market for those buildings."

He declined to comment further on Orion's plans for the project.

Redwood Center, which USF&G; Corp. began to construct in 1906 as its headquarters, has been owned since August 1990 by Riggs National Bank of Washington, which bought the complex at foreclosure auction for $3.8 million.

Riggs, which has retained real estate firm Colliers Pinkard to market the project, took control of the project after a $20 million plan to upgrade the buildings became a casualty of the depressed downtown office market.

Orion, which has contracted to acquire the two buildings, is expected to decide by the end of the month if it will proceed with the purchase from Riggs. Approvals from the city's architectural review board and Department of Housing and Community Development would also be required.

Two years ago, the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) proposed turning the two buildings into apartments, but the plan faltered because of the $11 million required for its conversion.

"I think it's very positive for downtown that someone has expressed an interest in some of our older buildings," said Al Barry, assistant director of the city's planning department. "From a preservationist perspective, though, one question that I think will come up is whether having a garage in that location is desirable."

The BDC has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow afternoon to present Orion's plans to surrounding businesses and landlords, said Barbara Bonnell, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Redwood Center would mark the second Orion purchase of a Class B building downtown. In September, Orion bought the American Building, at 231 E. Baltimore St., at auction for $260,000.

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