Alex. Brown Inc.'s decision to stay downtown and take up residence in a 30-story skyscraper that will carry its name are reasons for celebrating. If nothing rocks the deal, it should be a boon for the Baltimore Street corridor.
The Alex. Brown move, by March 1997, would bring occupancy in Commerce Place to 80 percent. What a change. Since its opening in 1992 during the recession, Commerce Place has been largely empty. Bringing nearly 1,000 professionals into the building should prove a boost to the entire area.
According to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, the city plans to provide 250 spaces in a new parking garage near the future Alex. Brown headquarters at Baltimore Street and Guilford Avenue (although it will use the 1 South Street address). No specific location for that garage has been disclosed.
But it is known that Manekin Corp., which owns the former Tower Building lot catercorner from Commerce Place, is proposing to build a $10 million high-rise parking garage for 720 cars at that site and use the street-level space for retail.
Add to this mix the American Building, a 114-year-old office tower across the street undergoing renovations, and it becomes clear that the area is on the threshold of a major transformation.
The Block, Baltimore's tawdry strip of porno shops and striptease bars, is located just east of that corner. The Block is a vestige of an era that has passed and harbors all kinds of undesirables. With Alex. Brown's planned move, it is now incumbent upon the city to see to it that The Block is cleaned up and that various illegal activities, from prostitution to drug peddling, are eradicated.
This is important because only The Block, in the 400 block East Baltimore Street, separates the future Alex. Brown headquarters from the forthcoming Port Discovery children's museum complex and the new Shot Tower Metro station. The area must be made safe -- in image and reality.
Alex. Brown's planned move provides a rare opportunity to remake a problematic downtown area and turn it into a magnet for jobs and services. Our advice to the city is: Do it -- and do it now.