Wexford Science & Technology, LLC and The Whiting Turner Contracting Company celebrated the “topping off” of their 4MLK project last week, an important milestone for the project which is slated for completion October 2024.

Situated at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Baltimore Street, 4MLK is the largest commercial project in Baltimore with a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard street address. The 8-story, 250,000 square foot lab and office building will stand as the gateway to the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) BioPark and West Baltimore and is Wexford’s third multi-tenant development on the campus.

The topping off ceremony symbolizes the completion of the skeleton of the building and celebrates the collaboration and hard work of all involved in the construction process. It recognizes the labor, ingenuity, and dedication of the builders while celebrating what’s to come.

Some of the statistics for the 4MLK project include:

  • 210,000 man hours expended
  • 120-men onsite on a daily basis for the concrete alone
  • 13,150 cubic yards of concrete poured (equivalent to four Olympic swimming pools of concrete)
  • 3,220,000 pounds of rebar (equivalent to the weight of 36 Boeing 737 jets)
  • 734,000 pounds of steel (equivalent to the weight of 60 African elephants

“I want to sincerely thank all the men and women who work tirelessly on this project, on site, to help physically shape this building as it comes out of the ground,” said Gregg Herlong, Vice President, Development, Wexford Science & Technology, LLC.

“I also want to thank our general contractor, Whiting Turner, who has been an incredible partner, as well as ZGF, our architect, and the incredible engineers and consultants that we’ve worked with on this project; Bowman, STV, Mahan Rykiel, Hope Furrer.”

The Larger Impact For Baltimore

Herlong also acknowledged the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), the University of Maryland School of Medicine and UMB Health Sciences Research Corporation in his remarks and their instrumental work in ensuring the project’s delivery.

“Their leadership and commitments have catalyzed continued investment here in West Baltimore and make projects like this one, and everything around here, possible,” Herlong stated.

“Inside of these buildings, right here in Baltimore, life-enhancing technology therapies are being developed by world-class scientists and innovators. Companies like Catalent and Illumina, global leaders in the life sciences, have significant presence here,” he furthered.

The 4MLK building will be a transformational endeavor, not only standing as a connector to the neighboring UMB campus and West Baltimore communities but also providing critical wet laboratory space in downtown Baltimore.

Bringing together faculty researchers, entrepreneurs, seasoned life science leaders, and community-focused initiatives and programs for the advancement of human health innovation, 4MLK will be instrumental in continuing to grow Baltimore’s life science ecosystem.

The project itself has already impacted the workforce.

Since starting the 4MLK project in October 2022, over 31% of the total core and shell project costs have been committed to qualified MBE, WBE, or DBE firms

Seven people have been hired locally by subcontractors on the 4MLK construction team as well. The general contractor on the 4MLK project participates in workforce programs including: JARC Baltimore, Turnaround Tuesday, Project Jump Start, MOED – Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Stadium Authority Workforce Development, Baltimore City School – Cristo Ray Program, CCBC – P-Tech Program, and Living Classrooms.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Significance of the Topping Off

The topping-off ceremony in construction holds a rich history deeply rooted in ancient traditions and symbolism. Originating centuries ago, this ritual marks a significant milestone in the construction process, symbolizing the completion of the building’s structural framework. Its historical roots trace back to various cultures across the globe, each with its unique customs and practices to celebrate the achievement, craftsmanship, and the hope for the building’s future success.

One of the earliest recorded instances of a topping-off ceremony dates back to the Scandinavian practice of placing a tree atop a new building to appease tree-dwelling spirits. This tradition, known as “topping out,” was believed to bring good luck and protect the building and its inhabitants from malevolent forces. In ancient Egypt, topping-off ceremonies were accompanied by elaborate rituals and offerings to the gods.

Similarly, in ancient Rome, builders marked the completion of a structure by placing a decorative final piece, often a bronze pine cone or a statue, atop the building. This act was accompanied by celebrations and feasts to honor the accomplishment and ensure the building’s prosperity.

Modern day, and in 4MLK’s instance, attendees signed a beam that was raised.

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and the same is true for buildings and life science ecosystems. They take time, investment, collaboration, vision, and a strong community in order to grow and flourish. 4MLK’s recent topping-off ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the building, but also what it represents for the greater Baltimore life science community – continued progress towards a vibrant life science ecosystem.