Designs for a 10-story office and laboratory tower planned for west of the University of Maryland BioPark have changed slightly, and now include a 300-space parking garage.
Developer Wexford Science + Technology presented a revision to the $200 million project — which also included a redesigned patio area and other minor tweaks — to a city design panel Thursday. The Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel (UDAAP) was generally pleased with the changes, but pushed the project’s design team to look more closely at a car drop-off area that will later serve as the entrance to a second tower, planned as part of phase two of the BioPark expansion.
The project, located on a two-acre parcel at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and West Baltimore Street, is designed to fill a void between the existing BioPark campus and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. It is expected to bring 1,000 new jobs, according to Gregory Herlong, director of development for Wexford.
Phase one will include construction of the 300,000-square-foot 4MLK tower, which will hold a public work area, plenty of office and lab space, a cafe and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. A park and plaza are also part of the plans, as is the conversion of a neighboring 5,000-square-foot vacant firehouse into a restaurant.
Two floors of below-ground parking was originally part of the phase one proposal, however new information from engineers found high water levels underground would make the construction too costly. Now, developers will seek to construct a 105-foot tall parking garage on a vacant lot at the corner of West Fayette Street and North Fremont Avenue. The structure will also have room for additional retail or other programming on the ground level.
Herlong said after the presentation that building the garage would cost less than underground parking, but did not specify by how much. The parking structure will be subject to its own city design review, and while it will not take as long to build as the 4MLK tower, the two must be delivered simultaneously, Herlong said.
4MLK is expected to be complete in 2021.
UDAAP members applauded other design revisions made by a team from ZGF Architects and Mahan Rykiel Associates. They included new permanent seating in the plaza, the use of different materials in places and some landscaping and steps where the project meets the public walkway to create a smoother transition between the two.
However, panel chair Pavlina Ilieva did take issue with the signage planned for the building. She felt a sign on both the south- and east-facing sides of the tower was excessive and encouraged designers to have only one.
“Find a strong and powerful way to say ‘this is us and we are here,’” she said.
Although in renderings the building’s sign reads University of Maryland, Baltimore, Herlong said the team hopes the name of a company will someday adorn the building. They are marketing it as a visible location and headquarters, he added.
UDAAP member Cheryl O’Neill also asked the team to look more closely at a vehicle drop-off area on the west side of the project along North Freemont Avenue. She said it didn’t look like a “prominent entrance,” adding that with the parking garage moving to the west side, more pedestrians will be entering from that side than before.
Will Robertson, architect at ZGF, noted the area will also later be the entrance to a second tower, planned as part of phase two. Other UDAAP members agreed with O’Neill and encouraged Robertson and the rest of the team to incorporate additional landscaping and develop it as more of a main gateway with the second phase in mind.
The exact buildout of phase two will be “market dependent,” Herlong said, but will consist of a second glass tower, likely between 250,000 and 300,000 square feet in size. Residential may also be part of the second portion of the development.