Real estate: University
A Hopkins affiliate's proposed purchase of the Baltimore
Sun's headquarters would keep the newspaper's reporters and
editors downtown while potentially opening significant amounts of
new office space to Hopkins departments and other tenants.
Dome Corp. has signed an agreement giving it exclusive rights to negotiate with the Sun to buy and redevelop the paper's landmark building at 501 N. Calvert St. A 650-car parking garage just to the north would also be included.
The two companies said last week they are aiming for a deal that would allow the Baltimore Sun Co. to give up ownership of a building that, at about 440,000 square feet, is far too large for the Sun's current needs. A 1992 move of the paper's presses and distribution center to South Baltimore left 200,000 square feet unoccupied at 501 N. Calvert, the companies said.
If the deal goes through, however, the Sun's 900-employee news and business operations will remain on Calvert Street, occupying roughly half of a completely renovated complex owned and managed by Dome. The proposal allows the Baltimore Sun Co. to "stay where we are," and reaffirm its commitment to the central business district, Sun publisher Mary Junck said.
"Our objective is to upgrade the working environment for our employees while reducing our real estate expenses as we shed the underutilized space in the complex," Jean Halle, the Sun Co.'s chief financial officer, said in a statement released by the company. "We decided to negotiate exclusively with Dome on this project because they have a very energetic and experienced team and have given us confidence that they can manage the redevelopment while meeting our schedule and our economic objectives."
Dome, a for-profit company owned jointly by the university and the Johns Hopkins Health System, said it is proposing a renovation that would build both retail and storage space into the building alongside the Sun's space and new offices for Hopkins users and third parties.
"This would be competitively priced, well-located space practically right next door to Peabody and very convenient to the East Baltimore campus," said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for administration of the university and a member of the Dome board of directors.
"Just as with the university's plan to buy the Eastern High School site on 33rd Street near Homewood, this is a deal that will provide economical space for the Hopkins family," Sunshine said. "And just as with the Eastern site, which Dome will also redevelop, this is a transaction that is potentially very good for the city as well as for Hopkins."
Neither Dome nor the Sun Co. commented on details of their agreement, though they said they hope their negotiations will lead to a sale in January. Neither released specifics on a renovation plan or prospective tenants for the redeveloped building. As anchor tenant, the Sun would likely keep its name on the building even after ownership transfers, said Lester R. Conley, president of Dome's real estate division.
As a for-profit company, Dome finances its projects through conventional commercial means. Acquisition of the building, therefore, would not divert money from the teaching, research or patient care missions of the university and the health system. In fact, Sunshine said, the aim is just the opposite: to minimize the cost of space the institutions clearly will need in the future.
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