O'Malley touts progress on State Center project
Gov. Martin O’Malley heralded progress in the mammoth State Center project, saying construction crews will break ground at the long delayed office complex by the fall, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports.
In Baltimore Tuesday afternoon, the governor called the giant collection of parking lots and office buildings on the western edge of Mount Vernon a “concrete wasteland” that will be soon revamped with retail shopping area and housing anchored by a new grocery store.
“Neighborhoods have been separated by a giant dead zone,” said O’Malley. Hewing to a theme of his reelection campaign, O’Malley stressed that the project will create work: He promised 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 “ongoing permanent jobs.”
The State Center project, which was first conceived in 2004, when Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was governor, is intended to revitalize a 26-acre area of the city that goes dark after 5 p.m. and on weekends, when state employees who work there leave for the day.
The project has been stalled in part because of its complexity — on Wednesday, the Board of Public Works will vote on only the first of five phases — but also because lead developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse dropped out as the economy soured.
The board is expected to approve a complex land deal Wednesday that will extend a 75-year lease for two parcels of land to the private development team State Center LLC. In return, the state will receive a 7 percent share of profits in addition to the lease payments, said Christopher Patusky, director of the Maryland Department of Transporation Office of Real Estate.
Tthe state is also expected to formalize an agreement Wednesday to lease some office space from State Center LLC. Starting in 2014, the state would rent 500,000 square feet for $25.85 a square foot, state officials said.
Plans call for two clumps of office and retail space and an underground parking garage. The offices are slated for workers at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Transit Administration and the Maryland Department of Planning.
Some of those workers are currently in other offices in Baltimore. Michael A. Gaines, the assistant secretary of general services for real estate, said the state will “backfill” those offices, so the state will not merely be shuffling state workers around to different locations in Baltimore.
The grocery store has not been announced.
Planners say the location, near the Light Rail and the Metro and within walking distance of Penn Station, should attract retail and foot traffic. “Developers look for projects with good bones,” said Caroline Moore, a developer with Ekistics Capital Partners, one of the firms working on the project.