From Baltimore Business Journal by Melody Simmons
The lobby holds modern fixtures, bronze and marble accented structures, tan concrete pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows. In the world of the ongoing downtown Baltimore metamorphosis, it's a unique and minimalist statement with a tinge of local history.
At 2Hopkins Plaza, a $50 million conversion of the former PNC Bank building into 183-luxury apartments and revamped office space for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearing completion with the first wave of tenants already moved in.
"It's the old meets the new," said Karl Barney, the community director of the property who will manage the 22-story building and glass pavilion outside once it fully opens in September. "It's a Charles Center change-up."
The Brutalist-style building is a landmark with a striking cubic exterior that some love and others hate. It was nearly totally vacant when the property was bought at auction for $5.1 million by Rockville-based Berman Enterprises in 2015, but soon will be a busy hub once again. The property was first listed in 2014.
2Hopkins was first built in 1969 for the Mercantile Deposit and Trust Co., which later sold to PNC Bank. The downtown landmark was conceived as a key part of Baltimore's downtown renaissance at Charles Center under the direction of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, which regenerated the city's hub and later led to redevelopment of the inner harbor and, later, points east.
Today, the Hopkins Plaza area is getting a total re-do with a newly renovated outdoor plaza and elaborate steel fountain outside near the federal office building that is located next door.
Inside the redevelopment, the new studio, one-and two-bedroom apartments at 2Hopkins are located on floors 11-21. They have been retrofitted into former bank office space after the building was totally gutted a year and a half ago. Today, the corridors boast wide, carpeted walkways and hold a series of 8-foot front doors on each floor. Modern light fixtures and bronze-framed windows offer a glimpse of the city's skyline from the elevator bank area on each floor. Rents range from $1,224 to $2,500 per month.
All units have modern kitchens and bathrooms, wood floors and ceiling fans. There are close to 300 parking spaces in an underground garage and amenities include a rooftop gym, community room and a possible rooftop pool are in the works. Two indoor dog parks — one for large dogs, one for small dogs — will be installed in the basement next to a dog spa. A restaurant is being planned for the former bank lobby located off of the main lobby on the ground level.
The top three levels at 2 Hopkins are considered the penthouse with upgrades that include electric UVA-protected window shades and blue-tooth-capacity shower heads (to stream music into your daily splash) and views of the city that include a bird's eye into home plate at Oriole Park and the step-ladder signature of the Pandora building nearby. One couple from North Carolina pre-leased a corner penthouse two-bedroom unit from photographs, Berman said.
"We have taken the historical element, updated it and kept true to Charles Center," Barney said during a tour. "We're here to stay and we're trying to build something substantial to last over time."
On Tuesday, Barney used a large picture book "The Living City" to help show off the history of Hopkins Plaza. He said he is amazed at the modern "Jackie Kennedy" style and history of the structure that soon could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places based on an application recently filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior by new owners Berman Enterprises.
Nearby, there is a pile of rubble where the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre once stood. The structure next door was razed two years ago to make way for a new development that may proceed once a legal fight ends between developer Howard Brown and a parking garage owner.
The 2 Hopkins apartments will fully open in mid to late September when a red neon sign lights up the 21st floor identifying the project, Barney said.
By then the Corps of Army Engineers will be closer to moving 600 workers into their new digs in 143,000 square feet of space on floors 1-10 under a 15-year lease.
"We are very excited about this building," said Adam Berman, a vice president with Berman Enterprises, a Rockville developer. The company also purchased 10 Hopkins in the plaza during the October auction. Berman Enterprises used historic tax credits and high-performance market rate tax credits "to make the numbers work," he said.
"We believe in the area," Berman added, of the project, the company's first in Baltimore.
The smaller pavilion building located outside 2Hopkins at 10 Hopkins Plaza totals 24,000 square feet and Berman executives are exploring a possible grocery store for the site like Trader Joe's, Barney said.
Barney pointed out that the building's outer skin of solid concrete was poured onsite by workers and erected piecemeal with scaffolding. The project in the 1970s was hailed as a new benchmark of the downtown renaissance as the ultra-modern structure designed by local legend Charles Brickbauer along with partner Warren Peterson took hold on the skyline.
The redevelopment was designed by BCT Architects and Phyllis Hartman of HDG Interior Architects.
"When we visited it and toured it, we realized it's an up-and-coming neighborhood, just steps from the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Federal Hill," Berman said Tuesday. "And there is parking underneath. Then we went inside and saw floor-to-ceiling windows and we started thinking about residential conversion. Looking at the other apartments on the market nearby, we can offer things that nobody else can."