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Exelon’s $250M Harbor Point project to include retail and residences

Exelon Corp.’s new building on the city’s waterfront in Harbor Point will be part of a $250 million development and will attract about 4,500 permanent jobs, company officials said Wednesday.

Details of the project were unveiled Wednesday by Exelon executives and the developer, Harbor East Development Group LLC, less than a week after the energy giant announced it planned to build a tower reaching up to 20 stories on a 27-acre tract that once held the AlliedSignal chemical plant.

Calvin G. Butler Jr., Exelon’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, said the Harbor Point site selection was made as an endorsement of its commitment to downtown Baltimore. Two other locations, the Baltimore City Community College site on Lombard Street and the former McCormick & Co. spice plant site on Light Street, were finalists, Butler said.

“We wanted to create a presence and make a statement,” Butler said. “We’re going to make a statement from Day One.”

The details were the first glimpse of what will soon become a new signature development on the city’s skyline. Design and construction of the $120 million tower won’t commence until Chicago-based Exelon’s proposed $7.9 billion acquisition of Baltimore’s Constellation Energy Group is completed, which is expected to be by the end of March. The building is slated for completion in 2014, Butler said.

But he and Michael S. Beatty, president of Harbor East Development, said the basics were already set. They include a goal of Platinum LEED status, up to 400,000 square feet of office space and a 70,000-square-foot trading floor, 3,000 parking spaces, 600 residential units and 150,000 square feet of retail space.

An 11-acre park including a tournament-grade lacrosse field as part of a new U.S. Lacrosse complex is also expected to be built at the site.

“We’re building a project that is growing the downtown of Baltimore,” Beatty said, citing how the city’s business district has expanded eastward from an unofficial vortex of Pratt and Light streets over the past decade. “It was very clear from our first meeting with Exelon that it was not about what can you do for us. It was what does this do for the city? It was clear that Harbor Point could answer these questions.

“People once said Harbor East is way on the edge of the city and it would never work,” Beatty explained, of the once-blighted land H&S Bakery mogul John Paterakis Sr. bought in 1984 from developer Michael Silver for $11.4 million.

So far, Beatty said Paterakis has invested $1.5 billion in Harbor East. The area today is considered by some to be the city’s gold coast with luxury hotels, apartments and condominiums and upscale retail and office space.

Beatty said a private bond sale would be held in the fall as part of a $150 million tax increment financing incentive approved for the Harbor Point project by the City Council in December 2010.

That money would be used to help pay for infrastructure, including a bridge that would connect Central Avenue to the Exelon site, new roads, a promenade, one mile of new sidewalks, and the waterfront park that will include the lacrosse field and a $2 million donation to the Living Classroom Foundation for a public education center.

TIF bonds are repaid to the investors through diverted property taxes for several decades.

In addition, the Exelon project is also eligible for another tax exemption because the site is located in an Enterprise Zone, which reduces property taxes on new development by 80 percent for five years.

Butler said such incentives were important in the decision to locate at Harbor Point because Exelon is a publicly traded company, but “most important, we wanted to do it right.

“This offers us the flexibility to grow,” he said.

J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., last week criticized Exelon’s choice of Harbor Point because he had lobbied the company to locate its offices in the city’s central business district, now struggling with a vacancy rate of nearly 20 percent.

Fowler was more conciliatory on Wednesday.

“We’ve always said the paramount goal is to ensure that Exelon builds in the city,” Fowler said. “We wish them luck on their project, and our organization will continue to focus our attention on working to transform the older parts of downtown into a diverse, mixed use community.”