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Historic American Building to become luxury hotel

Choice Hotels International plans to turn the American Building at 231 E. Baltimore St. into a 144-room Cambria Hotel. The company has signed an agreement with Sandalwood Management and KPG to develop the brand’s first hotel in Baltimore.

“The Cambria Hotel Baltimore is another important component of our growth in key urban markets throughout the country. This property is a part of our adaptive reuse strategy, which helps bring hotels to markets where land is at a premium, while also preserving the history of the building and creating something that is uniquely local for guests,” Mark Shalala, vice president, development, upscale brands at Choice Hotels, said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Choice Hotels International did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

The 14-story building dates back to 1905 and was the first office tower built after most of downtown Baltimore was destroyed by fire the previous year. The George Fuller Co. constructed the building for the publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper, Gen. Felix Angus.

The building sold for $4.15 million earlier this year. At the time, Marcus & Millichap, which handled the sale of the building, touted it as having the potential for redevelopment as multifamily or a hotel.

The American Building is the latest historic Baltimore Street address downtown to be reinvented. Late last month Florida-based developer Blake Casper revealed plans to convert the former Alex. Brown & Sons Co. building at 135 E. Baltimore St. into The Alexander Brown, a “chef-driven” American-style bistro that is expected to open in June. Eventually the building next door, at 125 E. Baltimore St., which is currently occupied by a Rite Aid pharmacy, will become an expanded retail development.

Despite a surge in development in downtown Baltimore in recent years, Baltimore Street east of Calvert Street has been slower to attract new investment. Much of that can be attributed to the presence of “The Block,” the city’s historic burlesque district in the 400 block of East Baltimore Street. The area’s seedy reputation and collection of strip clubs, fast food restaurants and pornography stores has scared away higher-end investment.

But there’s growing hope among economic development officials that momentum from the construction of new apartments downtown and performance of the office market closer to the Inner Harbor could spur development on Baltimore Street. In September, the Baltimore Development Corp. issued a request for proposal for several city-owned properties on Gay Street after potential investors expressed interest in the buildings.

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