By: Natalie Sherman
United Way of Central Maryland said Thursday it plans to move to South Baltimore in 2017, into a new eight-story office building — part of a major redevelopment that would transform a semi-industrial area tucked between Federal Hill and the Ravens and Orioles stadiums by bringing apartments, offices and shopping.
United Way CEO Mark Furst said the nonprofit has signed a letter of intent with developer Caves Valley Partners and expects to buy three floors of the proposed building in a condo-like arrangement, moving when its current lease expires.
The $20 million building is being developed by Towson-based Caves Valley Partners, which last year announced plans for a $250 million redevelopment dubbed Stadium Square in Sharp-Leadenhall, a neighborhood south of Otterbein. Caves Valley is also part of a team negotiating with the city to redevelop and manage nearby Cross Street Market.
Based downtown for decades, the United Way wants to be part of the neighborhood's transformation and was looking for an easily accessible site, Furst said. It also expects to become involved in a planned community center there.
"The whole point of us moving in is so we can be part of the community and help the community," he said. "I hope we do help bring it to prosperity and everyone in that neighborhood wins without any gentrification."
About 85 employees will relocate as part of the move from 100 S. Charles Street, where the nonprofit has leased about 32,000 square feet since 1997. It will occupy about 25,000 square feet in the new building.
Arsh Mirmiran of Caves Valley Partners said his firm hopes to break ground by the end of the year on the roughly 80,000-square-foot office building, which was presented Thursday to the city's design review panel. Plans by Design Collective Inc. are intended to evoke a modern warehouse, with large, regularly patterned windows, complimented by brick and metal materials.
Some panelists expressed concern about the height of the structure, which would look out onto the garages and backyards of rowhouses on Race Street. It is expected to rise over 100 feet, within the allowable limit, but several stories taller than the homes nearby.
The office building is the second major component of Caves Valley's Stadium Square project.
Hanover Co. presented plans this spring for a six-story, 293-unit apartment building at Cross and Race streets.
Caves Valley is also working on a roughly 3,000-square-foot community center on a parking lot of the Leadenhall-Baptist Church, as well as about two dozen affordable apartments on Cross Street. The apartments, located in an area with historic protections, would go behind rowhome facades and include retail, Mirmiran said.
The firm is also in negotiations over a parcel next to the 137.5 W. Ostend St. building, where it hopes to build another office building.
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