ONE OF THE most prominent landmarks of Baltimore's Jones Falls Valley, the former Kirk-Stieff silversmith building at 800 Wyman Park Drive, will soon have new occupants.
The architectural firm of Grieves, Worrall, Wright and O'Hatnick, now at 5 E. Read St. in Mount Vernon, plans to move its offices to the second floor of the Stieff Silver building by early next year.
Now in the final stages of negotiating a multiyear lease for its new space, Grieves is the first tenant to be announced for the Stieff building, which dates from 1928 and contains 40,000 square feet of space. A new owner, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, is converting it to a high-tech office center, along with a second, adjacent Stieff building that dates from 1970 and contains 50,000 square feet of space.
Grieves, known for restorations such as the Pearlstone Theater at Center Stage, the 1904 building of the Walters Art Gallery and the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del., will be the architect for the entire $12 million project as well as for its own 5,000-square-foot work space.
"It gives us a chance to be part of the old and new Baltimore," partner David Wright said of the pending move. "It also shows our ability to work with old buildings and bring them back to life with Bill Struever."
Essentially, "they'll live in their own product," said developer C. William Struever, whose firm owns the property and is general contractor for the Stieff conversion The company began renovating the 1928 building last month and plans to complete work by next spring. It plans to start renovating the 1970 building in March and finish it by summer of 2001.
Kirk-Stieff was the product of a 1979 merger of Samuel Kirk & Sons, founded in 1815, and the Stieff Co., started in 1892. Both were local companies.
In 1990, Kirk-Stieff was acquired by Lenox Inc. Eight years later, the company announced plans to close the Hampden plant and consolidate its silversmith operations in Rhode Island. Struever bought the property earlier this year for $1.5 million.
Grieves was founded in 1969 and was originally known as James R. Grieves Associates. In 1990, it merged with Worrall and Associates and now has about two dozen employees.
Other major local projects for which it served as architect include Hackerman House (the Walters' Museum of Asian Art at 1 W. Mount Vernon Place), and the Marine Mammal Pavilion of the National Aquarium in Baltimore on Pier 4. Current projects include a $40 million expansion of visitor facilities at historic Mount Vernon, Virginia and a $12 million science center for Western Maryland College in Westminster.
Wright said the architects plan to restore the exterior and all "the salient features that people are aware of," including the large sign that can be illuminated and visible to drivers on the Jones Falls Expressway below. He said the interior space is appealing to a firm such as his, which has employees spread out on more than one level of its current building.
"It's going to provide us with better space with more integrated facilities," Wright said. "With these old factory buildings, you get open landscape spaces that allow you to do much more, and yet you have all the character and richness of an old building."
Caroline Moore, director of commercial development for Struever, said the company already has identified tenants for all the space in the 1928 building.
Moore said the tenants range from well-established Baltimore companies such as printers and designers to newer, high-tech companies. One company, e-magination, is already temporarily occupying space on the Stieff property but will eventually move to the Tide Point complex in Locust Point, a project also being developed by Struever.
In every case, she said, the prospective tenants are looking for more than a new location.
"They want a setting that will enable them to keep and attract talented employees," she said. "They want more than a corporate office with the nice conference table. They want to be able to offer that neat, multifaceted employment opportunity that's not just a job from 9 to 5."
New garage for Little Italy
Mayor Martin O'Malley will preside over groundbreaking at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday for a $7.3 million, 458-space garage at Pratt and President streets in Little Italy. Work on the seven-level building is scheduled for completion by May.