‘This is a great place to be’

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Gantz

The first res­i­dents moved into the black glass tower’s 103 apart­ments early this past sum­mer. Ex­elon and its sub­sidiaries be­gan mov­ing into the 20-story build­ing named for the par­ent of Baltimore Gas and Elec­tric Co. last month.

To­day, Ex­elon will cel­e­brate the tower’s of­fi­cial open­ing with the de­vel­oper and city of­fi­cials, ful­fill­ing a prom­ise to the state re­lated to the com­pany’s 2012 takeover of BGE’s then-par­ent Con­stel­la­tion En­ergy Group and mark­ing the culmination of more than a decade of plan­ning and work to con­vert the pol­luted site of a for­mer chromium plant into a gleam­ing de­vel­op­ment of of­fices and homes.

The open­ing moves 1,500 Ex­elon and Con­stel­la­tion em­ploy­ees from two down- Con­struc­tion on the 20-story Ex­elon tower be­gan in 2014. town of­fice build­ings near the Power Plant to the new $270 mil­lion build­ing be­yond Har­bor East’s of­fices and luxe ho­tels, ex­pand­ing Baltimore’s eco­nomic cen­ter far­ther east along the har­bor away from the ag­ing core.

City of­fi­cials and de­vel­op­ers wel­come Har­bor Point’s emer­gence as an op­por­tu­nity to trans­form Baltimore’s down­town and re­store the city’s rep­u­ta­tion as a home for cor­po­rate head­quar­ters.

“Choos­ing this site, putting their signs on the sides of the build­ing is like stick­ing a flag in the ground and say­ing, ‘This is a great place to be,’ ” said Marco Green­berg, vice pres­i­dent of de­vel­op­ment for Beatty De­vel­op­ment, which is be­hind Har­bor Point.

“This build­ing and the broader plan to trans­form Har­bor Point ex­em­pli­fies what we can ac­com­plish when eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is done right,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake in a state­ment. “Ex­elon is part of the next wave of pros­per­ity for a new gen­er­a­tion of Bal­ti­more­ans who

just like gen­er­a­tions past, have come to the wa­ter­front to find op­por­tu­nity and en­ter­tain­ment.”

Beatty’s master plan for Har­bor Point calls for 1.6 mil­lion square feet of of­fice space and 910 res­i­dences plus stores, restau­rants, a ho­tel and 9.5 acres of open space and parks.

The planned $1.8 bil­lion project is ex­pected to re­ceive $400 mil­lion in pub­lic sub­si­dies, in­clud­ing about $110 mil­lion in tax breaks, plus $107 mil­lion in city bonds for in­fra­struc­ture that will be re­paid by the project’s prop­erty taxes.

The vi­sion for Har­bor Point is shaped by Beatty De­vel­op­ment founder Michael Beatty’s ex­pe­ri­ence in Har­bor East, the wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment next door.

While Har­bor East is dense with sky­scrapers filled with of­fices, high-end restau­rants and re­tail, Har­bor Point will fea­ture more open space, af­ford­able din­ing op­tions and res­i­den­tial units to make it feel more like a neigh­bor­hood, Green­berg said. The area’s din­ing op­tions, for ex­am­ple, will be a mix of quick-ser­vice lunch spots and af­ford­able sit-down restau­rants — all lo­cal or unique con­cepts.

The Ex­elon build­ing is the first ad­di­tion to the de­vel­op­ment in years. The first and only other build­ing, Thames Street Wharf, which is an­chored by Mor­gan Stan­ley, opened in 2010.

The project took years to come to fruition as the econ­omy re­cov­ered from the re­ces­sion, fi­nan­cial cri­sis and hous­ing bust and as the de­vel­oper wres­tled with the 27-acre site’s thorny en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

A chromium re­fin­ery op­er­ated at the site near the mouth of the In­ner Har­bor for 140 years un­til 1985, pol­lut­ing the ground with cancer-caus­ing haz­ardous waste. Al­lied Chem­i­cal, the last op­er­a­tor, re­me­di­ated the land, in­stalling a cap to keep chromium out of the har­bor, the air and nearby ground­wa­ter.

Beatty De­vel­op­ment ne­go­ti­ated a con­struc­tion and pol­lu­tion mon­i­tor­ing plan with en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors since it needed to drive piles through the cap for the Ex­elon tower and fu­ture build­ings. The de­tails were set­tled in 2014 and con­struc­tion be­gan.

The build­ing de­liv­ers on Ex­elon’s prom­ise to es­tab­lish a re­gional head­quar­ters in Baltimore. Now the na­tion’s largest util­ity com­pany, Chicago-based Ex­elon re­made Con­stel­la­tion as a whole­sale and re­tail en­ergy sup­plier. BGE main­tains sep­a­rate head­quar­ters in Baltimore.

Now that the new build­ing is open, Ex­elon and Con­stel­la­tion of­fi­cials said they are ex­cited to oc­cupy the new space, es­pe­cially a state-of-the-art trad­ing floor larger than a foot­ball field.

“It’s def­i­nitely been a long time com­ing,” said Joseph Ni­gro, CEO of Con­stel­la­tion and an ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for Ex­elon. “It’s an amaz­ing space.”

Con­stel­la­tion’s 650 en­ergy traders were spread out across mul­ti­ple floors at their cramped old of­fices, but here they will all be to­gether — a change Ni­gro said he thinks will im­prove work flow, train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

The Ex­elon build­ing’s103 apart­ments are more than 90 per­cent leased and it also fea­tures 750 park­ing spa­ces and 40,000 square feet of re­tail. Home goods re­tailer West Elm opened there in Septem­ber; Cer­e­mony Cof­fee Roast­ers, CorePower Yoga and Honey­grow, a Philadel­phia res­tau­rant startup, are ex­pected to open later this year or early next. The $270 mil­lion Ex­elon tower “and the broader plan to trans­form Har­bor Point ex­em­pli­fies what we can ac­com­plish when eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is done right,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake said in a state­ment.

“Baltimore is … ei­ther go­ing to con­tinue to de­velop and ex­pand and grow, or it’s go­ing to shrink, be­cause peo­ple will leave if they don’t see new de­vel­op­ment.”

Con­struc­tion of the tower was de­layed by the need to deal with con­tam­i­na­tion left over from a chromium re­fin­ery that had op­er­ated on the site for more than a cen­tury.

Beatty is in talks with other re­tail­ers and restau­rants, in­clud­ing a quick ser­vice-style res­tau­rant by a celebrity chef, to fill the re­main­ing space.

The build­ing is sig­nif­i­cant, both in its lo­ca­tion and size, and could play an im­por­tant role in show­cas­ing Baltimore as a good place for busi­nesses, said M.J. “Jay” Brodie, a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Baltimore De­vel­op­ment Corp.

“Baltimore is a ma­jor city — it’s ei­ther go­ing to con­tinue to de­velop and ex­pand and grow, or it’s go­ing to shrink, be­cause peo­ple will leave if they don’t see new de­vel­op­ment,” Brodie said.

As Ex­elon and Con­stel­la­tion move work­ers to Har­bor Point, they are leav­ing be­hind a to­tal of 440,000 square feet of space at 750 E. Pratt St. and 111 Mar­ket Place.

Real es­tate ex­perts don’t ex­pect the space to stay va­cant for long, in part be­cause Pratt Street has an oc­cu­pancy rate of about 92 per­cent, the high­est in Baltimore’s tra­di­tional Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict, ac­cord­ing to track­ing by com­mer­cial real es­tate firm JLL.

“Of course there will be some dis­rup­tion when Ex­elon moves to Har­bor Point, but it’s noth­ing down­town can’t han­dle,” said Kirby Fowler, pres­i­dent of the Down­town Part­ner­ship of Baltimore Inc.

The Down­town Part­ner­ship’s def­i­ni­tion of “down­town” spans from Martin Luther King Jr. Boule­vard to Har­bor East and Har­bor Point.

New con­struc­tion on the east end has gar­nered at­ten­tion, but Fowler said he does not think Har­bor Point’s growth will de­tract from the rest of the down­town, which is go­ing through its own trans­for­ma­tion with of­fice ren­o­va­tions and con­ver­sions to res­i­den­tial units, he said.

What’s more, Ex­elon’s move will free up space for other busi­nesses that have been

M.J. “Jay” Brodie, for­mer Baltimore De­vel­op­ment Corp. pres­i­dent

un­able to find space in the sought-after In­ner Har­bor area, said Robert Manekin, a se­nior vice pres­i­dent at JLL. Manekin pre­dicted that by this time next year 80 per­cent of the space will be filled again.

“Har­bor East and now Har­bor Point re­ally did not come at the ex­pense of down­town,” he said. “It was a log­i­cal pro­gres­sion of an en­hanced work­place strat­egy and work­ing en­vi­ron­ment that was go­ing to hap­pen some­where.”

Beatty’s work at Har­bor Point is far from over.

The next build­ing, a 289-unit apart­ment build­ing with ground-floor re­tail, is un­der con­struc­tion and ex­pected to open in 2018.

Beatty has plans for as many as six more build­ings, but the next is likely years away. Be­fore Beatty breaks ground on an­other build­ing, the de­vel­oper wants com­mit­ment from an­other cor­po­rate ten­ant, ide­ally one of Ex­elon’s size.

While Beatty is in talks with po­ten­tial ten­ants, it still could be some time be­fore the de­vel­oper finds the right fit, Green­berg said.

But after see­ing Har­bor Point’s trans­for­ma­tion so far, Green­berg is con­fi­dent in the de­vel­op­ment’s fu­ture.

“It’s hav­ing the sight to see the city as what it can be, not what it is or has been,” he said.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BALTIMORE SUN PHO­TOS

The Ex­elon tower in Har­bor Point will be the work­place for 1,500 Ex­elon and Con­stel­la­tion En­ergy em­ploy­ees who have been oc­cu­py­ing two down­town of­fice build­ings. The build­ing also has 103 apart­ments and 40,000 square feet of re­tail space.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BALTIMORE SUN PHO­TOS

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