Kohn Pedersen Fox reveals a waterfront headquarters in Baltimore for T. Rowe Price

On The Waterfront

Kohn Pedersen Fox reveals a waterfront headquarters in Baltimore for T. Rowe Price

T. Rowe Price Group already has one of the most coveted headquarters locations in Baltimore—an office tower designed in the 1970s by Pietro Belluschi and Emery Roth & Sons and expanded in the 1990s by Craig Hartman of SOM, with sweeping views of the city’s Inner Harbor.

But in 2024, if all goes according to plan, it will try something different, a midrise office “campus,” even closer to the water’s edge, with Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) as the design architect.

The global investment company, which manages $1.42 trillion in assets, unveiled preliminary plans this month for a 520,000-square-foot headquarters at Harbor Point, a city-within-a-city that’s taking shape on a peninsula one mile east of its current downtown location.

This is one of the first major office projects in the United States to be unveiled since the COVID-19 pandemic began and caused some people to question the future of the Class A office market, and cities in general.

The answer, from T. Rowe Price and Beatty Development Group, is that there is one.

The two companies unveiled their plans last week on December 10, amid a design review session of the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel.

For Baltimore, this is a big one. First, it means that T. Rowe Price and its approximately 1,700 associates now at 100 East Pratt Street will be staying in the city, where the company was founded in 1937. Second, its move will go a long way toward helping complete the 27-acre Harbor Point neighborhood, a former toxic clean-up site previously occupied by the Allied Signal chromium plant between the Inner Harbor and historic Fells Point.

After the chrome ore plant was taken down, the land was capped for redevelopment as a mixed-use community, combining upscale housing, retail space and offices. Exelon and Morgan Stanley are two companies with presences there already.

Two glassy volumes conjoined in the middle
KPF’s new office campus will sit on what developers have been calling the “Sydney Opera House site” (Courtesy KPF)

The city-approved master plan calls for a total of 3 million square feet of development, including 1.6 million square feet of office space; 250,000 square feet of retail space; 2,500 residences; 3,300 parking spaces; 600 or more hotel rooms, and 9.5 acres of open space.

The property was worth the $110 million clean-up because it’s one of the most picturesque urban waterfronts in the country. It features views to the west of the downtown Baltimore skyline and lake-like Inner Harbor basin, views to the east of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the Outer Harbor, and views across the water to Fort McHenry, industrial Locust Point, and the massive Domino Sugars refinery, now the largest Domino site in the country after the one in Brooklyn was razed several years ago.

The experience of standing on Harbor Point, elevated because of the remediation cap, is comparable to being on a ship on the narrow Bosphorus strait that divides Europe and Asia, leaving Istanbul and heading out to the Black Sea.

Within Harbor Point, the best site of all has been called the “Sydney Opera House site” because it juts into the harbor and offers sweeping views in all directions. The land has been proposed as the location for a performing arts center, federal courthouse, or some other one-of-a-kind, signature building that could provide a new sculptural landmark for the city.

City planners decided to make that natural headland a public park, in perpetuity. That means the land next to the Sydney Opera House site will always have the same picture-postcard views back to the downtown skyline because nothing will ever be constructed to block those views. This land, too, has been targeted for a building project worthy of the location. This is exactly where T. Rowe Price plans to put their new office complex.

“I’m truly excited and ecstatic to present to you the new global headquarters for T. Rowe Price at Harbor Point,” developer Michael Beatty, president of the Beatty Development Group, told members of the design review panel. “This is an incredible opportunity for us and an incredible opportunity for Baltimore, to see a project such as Harbor Point really start to move forward in an aggressive way.”

“T. Rowe Price is excited to make this commitment,” said president and CEO William Stromberg, in a statement. “It’s an investment in our people, in our clients and in our community… In Harbor Point, we will have a vibrant, campus-like atmosphere, with top-notch amenities and modern spaces designed to support the collaborative way we work with each other and with our clients.” 

The project is a joint venture of Beatty Development Group, the master developer of Harbor Point, and Armada Hoffler Properties. For this project, Beatty will serve as lead developer and Armada Hoffler will be the general contractor. T. Rowe Price intends to sign a 15-year lease and will be the sole occupant of the office space. A construction budget has not been made public.

According to Beatty, the T. Rowe Price campus will contain 470,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail and amenity space, above an underground garage and next to a 4.5-acre public green space known as Point Park.

In addition to office space for 1,700 employees, there will be a client conference center and an auditorium. Working with KPF will be Beatty Harvey Coco Architects as the architect of record.

As shown to the review panel, the new global headquarters will consist of two long and relatively narrow eight-story structures sharing a common base, almost identical and joined by a glass-clad connector in the middle.

The bulk of the office space will be on the upper six levels of both structures, with floor plates of about 38,000 square feet on each side. The lower levels will contain retail space and waterfront restaurants around the perimeter, concealing the parking from view.

The two office structures will reach out toward the harbor like fingers, echoing the finger piers that can be found elsewhere along the waterfront. Between them will be a landscaped courtyard that steps down to the harbor, offering framed views of the water and the Locust Point shoreline to the south. On the west side will be the new city park, which will take shape along with the offices and will be an amenity for anyone in the area.

Rendering of a park on the Baltimore waterfront
A rendering of the waterfront park (Courtesy iO Studio)

Architecturally, the T. Rowe Price headquarters will be an exercise in restraint and refinement. Beatty said it’s meant to be elegant and timeless in its design, to “embrace a campus-type environment,” and to be pedestrian-friendly in its scale, even though it’s a large structure.

“One of the unique things about the [Harbor Point] site is when you go to the south side of the site, along the water’s edge, we’ve really focused on pedestrian-scaled buildings,” he told the review panel.

Beatty said one of the lessons he’s learned at Harbor Point is to create buildings along the water’s edge that are “porous” enough, with public spaces in between and views through, that they allow for both visual and physical connections back to even larger buildings and to a central plaza farther inland.

“When you mix this idea of a more porous waterfront edge with this great central plaza and then with this phenomenal string of park experiences along the waterfront, you get something very special and you get this great connectivity,” he said. “That’s one of the things that we’re really focusing on, that connectivity from the central plaza through and around all these buildings to the waterfront.”

The building’s facade will be steel and glass in a modernist idiom, with the color of the steel a dark grey intended to harken back to the city’s industrial and maritime roots.

Principal Jeffrey Kenoff of KPF said the goal was to create buildings that were tasteful and timeless, not flashy. He said the glass cube connector is meant to be an “urban living room,” with views out to the harbor and back to the central plaza that serves as an organizing element for the entire site.

To accentuate the structures’ horizontality, Kenoff said, windows of the six main office floors will be grouped in three two-story modules, so they read from a distance more like three-story structures.

“The facade specifically reduces the scale of the massing through a cadence of grey double-height bays that echo the city’s historical DNA and industrial heritage,” he said.

The interior design phase will occur in 2021 and 2022, and T. Rowe Price has not yet chosen an interior designer, according to Brian Lewbart, head of corporate public relations and communications for T. Rowe Price.

Lewbart said the interior space will be built to the company’s specifications and likely will be a mix of open-plan work areas and private offices. Asked about designing for a post-COVID world, he said the company will be “incorporating lessons learned from remote working as well as the efficiencies gained by creating a modern workplace centered on supporting the firm’s collaborative culture and how our various teams work.”

The adjacent park is being designed by iO Studio Inc. and will be part of a seven-mile continuous promenade along the city’s waterfront, stretching from Canton and Fells Point around to Fort McHenry. It will replace a popular temporary park called Sandlot, the only waterfront park near downtown Baltimore that has a sandy beach.

Landscape architect Richard Jones, the founder and CEO of iO Studio, said the park will have several parts: the main lawn, a waterfront green, a family zone, a grove, an overlook, and grassy lowland. He called it “the most important open space to be constructed in our city in the last 50 years.”

According to Christopher Seiler, manager of marketing and communications for Beatty, construction of the office building is expected to start in the first quarter of 2022 and be completed in the second quarter of 2024. The public park is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2024.

The park is being created with Tax Increment Financing, also known as TIF funds, which were authorized by the city to pay for infrastructure improvements at Harbor Point. Seiler said all of Harbor Point’s green spaces, including Point Park, eventually will be deeded over to the city.