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Proposed Exelon HQ in Harbor Point given preliminary approval

The city’s design review panel Thursday gave a preliminary thumbs up to a design for a sleek, glass, brick and metal tower to house the city’s new Exelon Corp. headquarters at Harbor Point.

The 23-story design was presented to the Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel at a meeting held near City Hall. Developer Michael Beatty, whose newly formed Harbor Point Development Group will develop the project, said he expects ground to be broken on the $250 million building this spring.

“These will be the best public spaces in the city,” Beatty said. The Harbor Point project is expected to be built out over a seven-year period and include a public park, retail and 1 million square feet of residential and other office buildings.

The point is located between Harbor East and Fells Point on the site of the former Allied Chemical chrome works.

The site was selected by Exelon executives early last year as the company was completing its buyout of the Constellation Energy Group.

The new development will be built over a cap installed at the site to meet the concerns of federal and state environmental officials about chromium-contaminated ground that was left at the site when Allied closed the plant in 1985.

At the UDARP meeting, members of the panel heard a presentation about the Exelon tower design by lead architect David P. Manfredi, a principal in the Boston-based firm of Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Manfredi’s design showed a tri-level, L-shaped building of glass and metal with a decorative brick façade framing retail and parking on the lowest level to be constructed near the foot of Central Avenue.

At its tallest point, the 600,000-square-foot building would pierce the city’s skyline and serve as an iconic addition to Baltimore’s landscape, Manfredi said.

“This building is going to site on its own for a while,” he said, referring to plans to further develop the full 3 million square feet at the site after the Exelon building is opened. “It needed to be iconic and have as much verticality as it can.”

The design includes two floors of open space for Exelon’s trading activity as well as office space in the tower. There will be retail on the ground level and five levels of parking.

The building would be constructed of glass with a metallic cap at the highest level. A 10-foot canopy would welcome visitors into a well-lit lobby.

The UDARP members rendered general approval, but directed Manfredi to return again with revisions to the exterior designs.

One member, Emily Hotaling, told Manfredi the building was not “futuristic” enough and that the three parts of the design made it look chopped up into three separate parts.

“This is a modern power plant,” she said. “It’s too looking back.”

Another UDARP member, Gary Bowden, asked about signage on the city’s skyline. He was told Exelon would mount its logo atop the tower in a dramatic fashion.

“The signage should be as strong as the Domino Sugar sign and the Under Armour sign,” Bowden said, of the city’s landmarks across the waterfront from Harbor Point at Locust Point.

In the meantime, the city’s Planning Department is considering a change to the master plan for Harbor Point in tandem with the design for the Exelon tower, Planning Director Thomas Stosur said.

Beatty also has submitted a $100 million request for tax increment financing to the Baltimore Development Corp. to fund infrastructure construction at Harbor Point.

That request has yet to be considered by the BDC board, a spokeswoman said Thursday, before it is submitted to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the City Council for final approval.

Last year, the BDC arranged to make Harbor Point eligible for another tax break: state Enterprise Zone tax credits.

City Councilman Carl Stokes, chair of the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee, said the TIF request for Harbor Point will receive a hearing as soon as it lands at City Hall. “They will get a fair hearing,” he said.

However, he said his committee would not approve any request for a tax break unless there was a plan for “significant” profit sharing between the developer and the city. He also said he had not held any preliminary discussions with Beatty about the TIF.