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Sparkypants moving out of the basement

When it was time for video game development company Sparkypants Studios to move out of its founder’s Mount Washington basement, the principals were looking for an alternative to the Baltimore metro area’s game development hub in Hunt Valley.

Dave Inscore, the company’s arts director, and his partners Jason Coleman, general manager and president, and Pranas Pauliukonis, tech director, had all spent time at companies such as Firaxis Games and Big Huge Games based in the suburbs. This time they wanted to be in an area with upside and were intrigued by the activity in the city’s Station North neighborhood.

“Many of us now are moving into 20 years of game development. We’re very familiar with [Hunt Valley] and that area. There’s certainly wonderful things that have happened and continue to happen out there, but we were just all of the mindset, from every single person here at Sparkypants, ‘Lets try something new and different, lets go somewhere else,” Inscore said. “And this very much feels like the right thing to do on so many levels.”

So last week, after about three months on negotiations, the company agreed to lease the 8,500 square-foot third floor at The Centre, located at 10 E. North Ave. The historic theater is undergoing $19 million in renovations and will also be home to Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art’s film programs.

“The area is really taking off and we still feel like we’re an early adopter and its only going to get better,” Inscore said.

Charlie Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore, The Centre’s developer, said Sparkypants will be a great fit for the building because its financials are solid, its principals are a power in the industry and will fit in well with the creative uses planned for the building. He also said he believes this lease could be the first crack in Hunt Valley’s domination of the area’s gaming industry.

“Any industry I can think of, any industry I know anything about … you say, ‘Where do the talented young people in that industry want to live?’ And the answer is in the city. And if you’re an employer, and you want to be chosen by the people you choose, you might want to think about the city as a location,” Duff said.

Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development, said it’s not a matter of competing for these companies with the city, and that Hunt Valley provides gaming companies like Firaxis Games a peaceful atmosphere that’s conducive to what those companies hope to accomplish.

“Every company looks for space that reflect its own personality and what works for its employees,” Cohen said.

But Sparkypants hopes it’s at the forefront of more gaming startups calling Baltimore home.

“We feel like Sparkypants is going down as the first AAA [high budget game production] development group to break out of the Hunt Valley mold. We’re going down and planting a flag,” Inscore said. “I really hope that we can kind of set the stage for a lot more of that to happen.”

About Adam Bednar

Adam Bednar covers real estate and development for The Daily Record.