Mirror image to join office tower


Roman numerals often do nothing but confuse - how many people intuitively understand what Super Bowl XXXIX symbolizes? - but Corporate Office Properties Trust got it right.

In naming its latest project Gateway Exchange II, the company is telling prospective tenants precisely what the structure will be - a mirror image of the office tower already on the grounds.

When II is completed, the structures will stand as bookends at the entrance to Columbia Gateway, the 584-acre business park in Columbia.

Construction has only begun on the second building, but when finished, in about a year, it will be five stories with 125,000 square feet of Class A, or premium, office space. The exterior will be sandstone in color, with ample use of blue reflective glass.

Wide entrances and exits - divided by a row of nine tall lampposts - which merge with a brick, circular roundabout, will separate the two buildings.

Development of commercial office buildings slowed drastically when the economy soured in 2000, but Randall M. Griffin, chief executive officer of Corporate Office Properties Trust, said all indicators suggest a strong economy and demand for office space.

"The market's now back to a point where we're 98 percent leased in the whole park," Griffin said. "If you're a 30,000-square-foot tenant, there's just no space in the park. So we just think it's the right time" to add the second building.

Corporate Office Properties Trust is the largest developer and manager of commercial offices in Columbia Gateway and in the Washington-Baltimore region.

It owns 18 buildings, which, combined, represent about half of the square footage in Columbia Gateway. Corporate Office Properties Trust is considering relocating its headquarters to Gateway Exchange II from Centre Park Drive.

"To us, the pre-eminent site in the park is at the front door," he said.

A final decision on relocating will not be made for at least a couple of months, Griffin said.

A third building - perhaps six stories - is planned as part of Gateway Exchange, but it will have a different design.

"We put in the sculpture and the landscaping in anticipation of the second and third buildings," Griffin said. "Now, you'll have it framed with the two buildings. Eventually, you can really end up with a fantastic, high-quality park."

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