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Merritt pitches Canton office space

Baltimore’s architecture review panel told the architect of Merritt Properties LLC‘s proposed office tower at Canton Crossing the project could use more detail.

The Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel received its first look at plans for the proposed building on Thursday. The design by Michael Burton, an architect at Urban Design Group LLC, calls for a masonry base at the bottom of the building that transitions into a glass facade on the office space above the building’s garage.

“It’s almost like a glass cube sitting on top of the brick,” panelist Richard Burns said.

Panelists said they would like more detail on the masonry base of the proposed 12-story mixed-use building, especially the retail portion that will front Boston Street, to avoid the project being too bland. Panelist Gary Bowden said he would like to see more attention paid to the base of the building as a way to distinguish it from the nearby 1st Mariner Tower, which he called “grossly” simple.

“It just doesn’t feel comfortable looking at it,” said Planning Director Thomas Stosur, who serves on the panel.

The proposed $60 million project will be built in two phases, the first of which is building a six-level garage with 315 spaces for the existing Merritt Athletic Club. That extension will be built on the athletic club’s outdoor pool site. That extension will also include room for the club to expand with an indoor pool on the first floor and an outdoor pool on a rooftop terrace.

The office building would be the second phase of the project, and that would also include a garage with about 350 parking spaces, 100,000 square feet of office space and 12,000 square feet of ground floor retail.

The company hasn’t fully committed to building the office space and will wait to see what the market dictates. But Robb Merritt, president of Merritt Properties LLC, said brokers have told him they wish the office building was already available because of the demand for space outside of the traditional Central Business District.

“If we could have it up today we would build it today,” Merritt said.

But maybe the most important part of the project is securing enough parking for the fitness club. Merritt estimated it has about 5,000 members and is being impacted by the parking crunch in Canton, even though 85 percent of its members live within a mile radius of the club.

“We’re addressing our parking situation for our health club. That has really become an issue for all of Canton, and certainly to guarantee the future success of our health club facility we wanted to address that,” Merritt said.

About Adam Bednar

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