The new developers of Port Covington have signed their first office tenant since construction began on a series of buildings more than a year ago, but they’re also losing a major tenant.
H. Chambers Company, an architecture and interior design firm that’s currently at Montgomery Park in south Baltimore, on Thursday signed a 10-year lease to occupy 9,000 square feet of space at Rye Street Market, one of several buildings nearing completion along Cromwell Street, according to MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of MAG Partners, one of the lead developers of Port Covington.
Gilmartin said her team will deliver the leased space to Chambers next month so they can start building it out for their employees, and the company is expected to move in next spring.
“I’m really, really excited to tell you that today we signed a lease with Chambers,” Gilmartin announced during a “Baltimore: State of the Market” real estate forum organized by Bisnow.com.
“It’s a 123-year-old architectural-interiors firm, Baltimore-based,” she said. “An amazing, amazing company that fell in love with the ingenuity, the possibilities and the actual quality of the buildings we’re in…. They are our first signed lease…. They appreciate the beauty and the possibility of Port Covington.”
During the real estate forum, Gilmartin also said that Baltimore Sun Media has decided not to renew its lease for Sun Park, its headquarters at 300 E. Cromwell St., and that her team has begun marketing the property to others.
Trif Alatzas, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, said in an email message that the company is searching for a new location.
“We actively are looking for available office space in Baltimore that addresses our needs going forward,” he said. “At this time, we have not made any final decisions.”
The sprawling building, constructed to house the Sun’s printing presses, contains more than 260,000 square feet of space, according to city tax records. Gilmartin said The Sun will vacate its property “at the end of the year,” making it available in the first quarter of 2023, and that her company has already received interest.
Gilmartin did not confirm or deny news reports this week that CFG Bank was planning to move its headquarters from Baltimore County to Port Covington. Reports in The Baltimore Banner and Baltimore Business Journal were based on information from bank representatives, saying they were in final negotiations to sign a lease for 100,000 square feet of space at Port Covington. Gilmartin did say she expected to have more lease announcements “between now and the end of the year.”
The Sun’s departure
Sun Park was completed in the 1990s as a way to upgrade the newspaper’s presses while also moving the printing operations to a location that was close to major highways so delivery trucks could avoid clogged city streets. The Sun’s owners subsequently sold the Sun Park property to the developers of Port Covington and arranged to lease it back.
In 2018, the media company moved its newsroom and other departments from 501 N. Calvert St. to Port Covington. This year, the company shifted all printing functions from Sun Park to The News Journal’s printing plant in Wilmington, Delaware, eliminating the need for presses in Baltimore. Many of its staffers now work remotely.
The master plan for Port Covington calls for the Sun’s Cromwell Street building to be torn down to make way for new development, including buildings and an oval park called Founder’s Park, but the developers have said they will honor any leases and lease extensions with the media company.
With the notice that The Sun doesn’t intend to renew its lease, the developers of Port Covington could either re-lease the current building, raze it for new development, or lease it temporarily and then replace it as a later phase of construction.
New development team
MAG Partners, along with MacFarlane Partners of San Francisco, took over the $5.5 billion, 235-acre Port Covington project earlier this year from Weller Development Co., promising to complete work on the buildings under construction, find tenants, and build more.
The current phase of construction consists of five parcels containing 440,000 square feet of office space; 456 apartments; a 45,000-square-foot market and food hall, 81 “extended stay” units; additional shops and restaurants, and a variety of public spaces. When complete, the “city-within-a-city” is expected to contain up to 14 million square feet of residences, offices and retail space, making it one of the largest urban revitalization projects in the country.
Gilmartin said the existing Sun building, with its large floor plate, could be repurposed for a variety of uses, from work space to entertainment uses such as a dance club.
She said she did not know where the Sun plans to move. She declined to say whether it might move into one of the buildings that MAG Partners is completing.
In her keynote speech at the Bisnow conference, Gilmartin also said her team is planning to rebrand Port Covington with a new name, but she didn’t provide specifics.
She said after her formal presentation that her team’s research has shown that the area doesn’t enjoy strong name recognition despite all the recent construction: “A lot of people don’t even know where Port Covington is, lots of people in Baltimore,” she said. “A lot of times, Uber drivers don’t know where it is.”
Gilmartin also said a different design team has been hired to revise the master plan for Port Covington. She said the new master planning team is headed by AtelierTek Architects LLC of New York, a firm started by two architects previously with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa, Paris and New York — Serge Drouin and Daniel Hammerman.