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Blaustein Building sold to Del. group

The Baltimore Sun

A landmark Baltimore office tower built by the founder of Amoco Oil was purchased yesterday by a Wilmington, Del.-based commercial developer.

The Buccini/Pollin Group said yesterday that it acquired One North Charles Street, built in 1963 by oil magnate Jacob Blaustein, for an undisclosed amount. Buccini/Pollin will be spending more than $30 million, including the acquisition cost and nearly $10 million in renovations to the 25-story tower and outside plaza, said Christopher F. Buccini, a founding partner.

The developer, active in owning and developing hotel and office projects in the Philadelphia and Washington areas, also plans to open a regional office at One North Charles to focus on Baltimore-area investments.

"We see an incredible amount of opportunity in downtown Baltimore, and we see a lot of growth in that market," Buccini said.

The 290,619-square-foot building at Charles and Fayette streets was one of downtown's first modern high-rise office towers and a symbol of the business district comeback of the mid-1960s. It opened a year after One Charles Center spearheaded Baltimore's downtown renaissance.

Though newer office buildings near the Inner Harbor have become the more prominent office addresses, the area around One North Charles is in the midst of a resurgence that is attracting new investment.

"It is a burgeoning area of downtown," said Bo Cashman, a senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis in Baltimore. "It had traditionally been the center of the business district and the business district had migrated more toward Inner Harbor."

Recently, older office buildings with high vacancies have been converted to apartments or hotels. In one planned project, across Charles Street from One North Charles, Philadelphia-based developer ARC Wheeler plans a $55 million transformation of the 13-story Beaux-Arts style B&O; Building, former headquarters of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, into a "10" boutique hotel, with offices and shops.

"You've got more critical mass in the immediate vicinity, which makes it a more desirable office location," Cashman said. "What we continue to hear from investors is that the office market fundamentals are improving across the country, and Baltimore is part of that. So office product in particular is in more and more high demand for investors."

Buccini said the company had been looking to make a major investment in downtown for the past few years and were drawn to an area where companies are moving in and revitalizing space and new office, retail and hotel projects are under way.

The former owners, Corinthian Realty Partners of Bethesda and Nellis Corp. of Rockville, bought the building from BGK Equities LLC of New Mexico for $10 million in 2005.

Buccini/Pollin Group has been acquiring and developing properties in the Baltimore area for about a decade. The company develops and owns hotels, including the recently completed Hilton Hotel BWI Airport, the Comfort Suites BWI Airport and the SpringHill Suites Baltimore BWI Airport. Buccini/Pollin plans to break ground next week on a 100-room Homewood Suites by Hilton and a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn, which will be developed as two hotels stacked atop each other near Arundel Mills mall in Hanover. The developer also plans to break ground on a 150-room Aloft hotel, a division of Starwood's W brand, near the airport in September.

The company plans to renovate common areas of One North Charles, including the lobby and restrooms, upgrade the outside plaza and install a new security system by the end of the year. Current tenants in the building, now about 65 percent occupied, include Policy Studies Inc., Trigen Energy Corp., Crown Central, Rosemore Inc. and Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney.

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