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What could be state’s tallest building would be at Inner Harbor


Maryland Daily Record
April 3, 2014
By: Lizzy McLellan

Plans for what could become Maryland’s tallest building have been in the works for about a year during discussions among Questar Properties Inc. executives, city officials and local economic development forces.

And on Thursday, that proposal for 414 Light St. will make a public debut at a meeting of the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel.

The Baltimore-based developer will propose a 40-plus-story, mixed-use building at the site of the former McCormick plant, said Questar CEO Stephen Gorn. The project calls for 370 to 380 luxury apartments and street-level retail space, including a “nice, white-tablecloth restaurant.”

If all goes as planned, construction should begin late in the fourth quarter this year, said Gorn. The project would have a 30-month timeline, he said. It’s phase one of two, he said, for the 1.9 acre lot.

“We’ve evaluated the market and done market analysis,” he said. “We’re a Baltimore-based company, and we’re really taking special efforts to prove the right execution and the right vision.”

The building is planned to have what he called an “elegant, sophisticated look” with “a liberal amount of what we call vision glass.”

The Downtown Partnership, the Baltimore Development Corp. and city officials have been working with Questar. The developer recently met with neighborhood groups as well to explain the plans and show renderings.

“It’s exciting to see the dedication they have given to the architecture of the building,” said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership. “It could be a very appealing destination.”

The use of the property for residential space aligns with demand, he said, based on market studies from the Downtown Partnership and the developers themselves. Community members were generally accepting of the plans, said Barbara Valeri, president of the Harbor Court Condominium Association, who attended the neighborhood meeting.

“We never expected that piece of property would not be developed,” she said. “We thought it would be developed very soon after McCormick sold it.”

Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents that part of the city, agreed. “I don’t think anybody expected it would be decades before we saw actual development on that site,” he said. “It is exciting to see something go in there that fills in a glaring hole.”

McCormick’s facility was razed in the late 1980s when the spice maker moved its operations to Baltimore County. An affiliate of ARC Wheeler Equities bought the property in 2006, and had planned to build a 59-story skyscraper at the site. It ran up millions in debt and abandoned those plans, however, auctioning off the property in 2011.

Questar was the buyer, at $11.5 million.

“If you look at the old McCormick site, it is the best undeveloped site around the Inner Harbor,” said Gorn. “It really merits a very high-quality development and execution.”

The proposed building would certainly be one of the tallest buildings in Maryland, said Cole, and possibly the tallest overall. The Transamerica Tower currently holds that title, at 35 stories and more than 500 feet high.

“The design is dramatic and virtually what’s needed for a waterfront property,” said Fowler. “It ought to have a signature look to it.”

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