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Commercial Real Estate: Transamerica puts name on Baltimore building

Grimm + Parker Architects with William Rawn Associates, Architects

Insurance giant Transamerica announced plans to consolidate office space in Baltimore, where its name will replace Legg Mason on the city’s tallest building.

The firm, owned by the Dutch company Aegon, is relocating to 140,526 net rentable square feet at 100 Light St., the 35-story city skyscraper owned by a subsidiary of New York-based Lexington Realty Trust. The move fills a huge hole in the central business district, which Legg Mason vacated this year for new headquarters space in the booming Inner Harbor East complex.

"The addition of Transamerica as a tenant and the renaming of 100 Light St. as the Transamerica Tower successfully culminates our efforts to reposition the building as the premier Class A office property in downtown Baltimore," said T. Wilson Eglin, Lexington’s CEO in a statement. "We are extremely pleased to have procured another marquee tenant and increased leased space from approximately 26 percent to approximately 72 percent in the last 12 months."

The Transamerica move follows the relocation of law firm Ober|Kaler, which signed for 92,778 square feet in the same building in April. The two new tenants ensure the viability of 100 Light St., a 686,947-square-foot structure that was completed in 1973 as the USF&G building.

Since it acquired its interest in the building on Dec. 31, 2006, Lexington has moved aggressively to replace Legg Mason by adding a new parking garage across the street, a conference center, cafeteria and fitness center and redesigning the plaza and lobby.

"We are pleased to renew our long standing presence in the downtown area in an iconic building," said Mark Mullin, Aegon USA’s president and CEO. "We look forward to bringing our over 700 employees in Baltimore under one roof."

The lease commences no later than Nov. 1, 2011, and continues for a term of 10 years and three months, subject to two five-year tenant renewal options. Transamerica has the option to decrease or increase the amount of leased square feet by two floors, or 31,228 square feet, prior to approval of its space plans.

"I am very pleased to see another strong corporate name with global recognition added to Baltimore’s beautiful downtown skyline at 100 Light St.," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "Just like the iconic Pyramid in San Francisco, Baltimore’s Transamerica Tower will be a prominent downtown landmark and a proud symbol of our city’s strength as a thriving corporate center that is open for business."

The mayor’s remarks underscore the vagaries of the commercial real estate industry, especially in this era of international corporate consolidation. Although the Transamerica Pyramid still is prominently displayed as part of the company’s logo, it long ago moved its headquarters to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Aegon bought Transamerica in 1999 and moved its headquarters after selling off its non-insurance assets. Aegon kept the building as an investment property.

Building starts on complex

in Silver Spring

Washington Property Co. of Bethesda has begun construction on a 16-story apartment building in Silver Spring, where officials plan a formal groundbreaking Tuesday to mark the start of the long-planned Ripley district on the west side of Georgia Avenue.

The new rental project, 1150 Ripley St., will rise a block south of the Silver Spring Metro station. It is the first major construction project within the Ripley district in almost 20 years and county officials are touting it as the centerpiece of the "new horizon in the heart of Silver Spring."

The 306,000-square-foot building will offer 286 rental units that include studio, one and two bedroom apartments, as well as 3.5 levels of below grade parking. It will compete in a market that already was suffering from a glut of new residential multi-family housing before the financial market meltdown stalled most new construction beginning in 2008.

But in addition to amenities that will include a fitness center, recreation areas, computer center and service retail, 1150 Ripley also will benefit from $5 million in mezzanine financing provided to WPC by the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The Ripley district is a triangular parcel of downtown Silver Spring between Bonifant Street, Georgia Avenue and the CSX Railroad. The district is slated for development of a mix of high-density office and apartment buildings, with bike trails and pedestrian routes connecting residents to the nearby Paul S. Sarbanes Transit Center and the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Union Station in Washington, D.C., according to the Silver Spring central business district sector plan.

Clark Construction wins $202M FDA contract in White Oak

The General Services Administration selected Clark Construction Group, LLC to build the FDA‘s Consolidated Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research in White Oak, a $202-million, three-building project.

The Bethesda firm will build two laboratory buildings totaling 533,890 square feet and a 334,000-square-foot supporting office building.

Options could add to the scope of work, including constructing an additional supporting office building and an 878,000-square-foot garage.

With these options, the full value of the contract could reach $324 million, Clark said.

The company completed the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research 2 project at the White Oak campus in 2008. The new complex will consolidate several local area facilities onto the FDA’s campus in White Oak. Work on the project already has begun and will follow a 40-month construction schedule.

Kling Stubbins of the District is the designer of the laboratory buildings, and RTKL Associates Inc., also of the District, is the designer of the two supporting office buildings and parking garage.

John Hopkins graduate student building underway

Education Realty Trust announced the start of a 572-bed apartment building for Johns Hopkins University in the school’s East Baltimore Science + Technology Park.

The $60.7 million building by the Memphis firm is expected to attract nearby medical and public health students once it is completed in 2012.

The building, 929 N. Wolfe St., is a joint project with East Baltimore Development Inc., a nonprofit partnership of private and public entities dedicated to Baltimore’s urban revitalization.

"The 929 project is a statement of major confidence in this neighborhood, our city and our state," Chris Shea, EDBI’s president and CEO, said during the groundbreaking, according to EDBI information.

The 20-story building will rise on land owned by Johns Hopkins University and leased to a subsidiary of East Baltimore Development

Designed to appeal to graduate students, the majority of the apartments will be studios, one- and two-bedroom units. All will have premium amenities such as wood flooring, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops with access to state of the art technology, exercise facilities, and a garden rooftop terrace.

Financing was secured on Sept. 16 through a $42.7 million conventional construction loan by PNC Bank, and an $18 million second mortgage loan provided by Education Realty Trust.

Prince George’s 1,107-unit apartment portfolio on market

Transwestern’s Bethesda-based multifamily group announced it has been named by United Investors Management Corp. as exclusive agent for the sale of a 1,107-unit multifamily portfolio in Prince George`s County.

The offering consists of Pennbrooke Terrace (404 units) and Valleybrook Apartments (147 units) in Forestville, and Cheverly Terrace (366 units) and Hanson Arms (190 units) in Cheverly.

"This portfolio of assets presents an outstanding opportunity for an investor [or investors] to acquire well-located properties in one of the strongest markets in the country, and to further capitalize on the excellent value-add potential offered by each asset," said Dean Sigmon, senior vice president and director of Transwestern’s Mid-Atlantic Multifamily Group, in a statement.

The properties are located near Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility and Suitland Federal Center, which houses the U.S. Census Bureau. The federal government presence in the surrounding area encompasses 12,760 federal employees. The immediate area is experiencing direct investment into new retail facilities, including Ritchie Station Market Place, a 100-acre retail development.

COPT pays $119M for pair of D.C. buildings

Corporate Office Properties Trust of Columbia said it has entered a new submarket with the $119 million acquisition of two Class A office buildings containing 362,000 square feet known as Maritime Plaza I and II in the Capitol Riverfront submarket of Washington.

The buildings were built in 2001 and 2003, respectively. The purchase price of $119 million included the assumption of a $70.1 million mortgage loan with a fixed interest rate of 5.35 percent that matures in March 2014. The two buildings are subject to 99-year ground leases with Washington Gas Light Company that expire August 2099 and November 2100.

The buildings are 100-percent leased. More than half the space is leased to investment grade tenants, such as Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics and SAIC, according to COPT information.

"This acquisition and expansion into a key submarket of Washington, D.C., fits well within our Super Core strategy of developing and acquiring properties leased primarily to the U.S. Government, Defense IT and Data sector tenants as well as locating adjacent to government demand drivers," said COPT CEO Randall M. Griffin in a statement.

The office buildings are part of a planned five building mixed-use project known as Maritime Plaza. The Washington Navy Yard was a major beneficiary of the Pentagon’s 1995 Base Realignment and Closure program, which brought about 4,000 employees to the complex. Most recently, the Navy announced its intent to hire close to another 1,000 employees by 2011 with an additional 2,400 employees by 2015.

Commercial real estate news items may be mailed to: Steve Monroe, The Business Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; e-mailed to; or faxed to 301-670-7183.

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