Zenith tower construction might begin next month


Construction could begin as soon as next month on a long-awaited luxury apartment tower at a prestigious downtown corner.

The Zenith, a high-rise planned for Pratt and Paca streets, overlooking Oriole Park at Camden Yards, was announced more than two years ago. Since then, the project, heralded by city officials as an example of its efforts to reach out to minority-owned businesses, has stumbled on a variety of development potholes.

Yesterday, the building's developers said they expect to break ground next month, even though the city's Urban Design and Architecture Review panel has recommended last-minute design changes.

"We just want to get started," said Brian D. Morris, chief executive officer of Legacy Harrison Enterprises.

Though Morris and his business partner, Dean S. Harrison, were hoping to walk away from yesterday's meeting with a building permit, they said the panel's request for refinement of the Zenith's entryway and street-level landscaping was not much of a setback.

"It allows us to stay on our schedule," Harrison said.

Legacy Harrison ran into many stumbling blocks, some big, some relatively minor. Foremost was its trouble finding financing for the $37 million project, which it secured this summer.

The developers also learned that they would have to scale back the building's height so that it wouldn't interfere with helicopters landing at nearby Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Next came a change of architects. Now there are the city design panel's aesthetic recommendations.

"We still have concerns about a couple of things," panel member Mark Cameron told Legacy Harrison. "But we are in approval of everything else you've shown."

The developer is scheduled to return to the panel with the changes on Dec. 23.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie of Baltimore Development Corp. said he is confident that construction will begin soon.

"It's a strong building," he said, "on an important corner."

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