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Hogan administration plans to hand over State Center property to Baltimore

The 28-acre State Center campus has a convoluted history of failed redevelopment plans and litigation. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration plans to hand over the State Center campus to the city of Baltimore once the shift of state workers to downtown buildings is complete, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said Wednesday.

During a meeting of the state’s Board of Public Works, Rutherford, who sat in for Hogan on the three-person board, announced the administration’s intention to pass the State Center property over to the city. Rutherford said that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott was informed of the state’s intentions on Tuesday.

If the state hands the property off to the city, Baltimore’s leadership will have control over what to do with the aging site, which has also acted as a major testing, vaccination and treatment site for COVID-19 in recent years.

“The surrounding communities and the entire city deserve a State Center site that lives up to its full potential,” a spokeswoman for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told The Daily Record in an emailed response to an inquiry regarding the city’s plans.

“Mayor Scott’s administration will work with this Governor, the next governor, the surrounding communities and their elected leaders to develop a plan for the site that we can all be proud of — a plan that fits into our shared vision for Baltimore’s renaissance. There are of course a lot of details that need to be worked out, including how to fund the demolition and remediation necessary to put this site back into productive use.”

The latest of several state government departments moving out of the State Center complex and into downtown Baltimore had its new lease approved by the BPW Wednesday.

The board, which is comprised of Hogan, Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller Peter Franchot, approved a 10-year lease for two suites in 700 E Pratt St., also known as the Candler Building, for the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. The building is owned by American Real Estate Partners, a firm based in McLean, Virginia.

“The new office spaces will offer client intake space, located on the first floor, with a dedicated street-level entrance, allowing the agency to continue to provide excellent customer service. Anyone who’s been to SDAT … knows that it’s on the, I think, seventh floor. The seventh floor of State Center. So, it’s not necessarily a nice retail operation or location for it,” Rutherford said.

Other tenants at 700 E Pratt St. include Hord Coplan Macht, an architecture firm, Crown Castle, a telecommunications company, and Havas CX, a marketing agency. Rent for the space will be $1,189,988 annually, with the first year’s rent being abated almost in full. The lease term begins on July 1, 2023.

The board previously approved a lease for the Department of Human Services in May. The department will be at 25 S. Charles Street.

In April 2021 Hogan announced his plans to move 3,300 state government employees working across 12 agencies out of State Center and into downtown Baltimore. The move aims to help revitalize the city’s central business district, which has been in decline for years with many big-name corporations opting to move their operations elsewhere in the city or to close their Baltimore locations entirely.

Rutherford noted that the influx of employees will help support the many downtown restaurants, cafés and other businesses that rely on patronage from office workers.

The state began putting out requests for proposals for the 12 agencies’ new offices soon after Hogan’s announcement, stating at the time that the process of relocating the agencies out of State Center could take around two years.

The transfer of the property also would free up the aging State Center complex for potential redevelopment. Previous plans to redevelop the campus, which borders Upton and Midtown, were canceled in 2016, leading to a legal dispute with the project’s former developer.