The historic Cokesbury Building has a new owner.
A group called Corner Ventures LLC recently acquired the five-story office building at 516 N. Charles St. for $1.925 million, according to Brad Byrnes of Byrnes & Associates.
Built in 1921, the 21,700-square-foot building has a physical therapy studio on the first level and offices above. For many years, it was the home of the Cokesbury book and church supply store, one of many independent book shops that are no longer open in Baltimore, and the name has stuck. It was one of the last office buildings in Baltimore to have a manually-operated elevator.
One block south of the Washington Monument, the building was 90 percent occupied at the time of the sale. 516 LLC was the seller in the “off market” transaction.
Corner Ventures is a Baltimore-based real estate investment company owned and managed by David Lapides, whose portfolio includes numerous office, retail and multifamily properties throughout the region.
Lapides said he intends to take advantage of the “unparalleled Mount Vernon location” and upgrade the building for continued office use.
“With such a high occupancy rate already, our focus is to make the Cokesbury building even better suited to meet the needs of existing and new tenants,” he said in a statement. “That could include bringing in a fiber connection, the development of shared conference rooms or opening up the basement for use. We work for our tenants, so their needs will drive our decisions.”
The sale is the latest of several high-profile transactions in Baltimore for Byrnes, who represented the buyer and seller. Over the past year, he has brokered the sale of The Munsey Apartment Building at 7 N. Calvert St.; the Lanahan Building at 22 Light St.; the 120,000-square-foot multifamily conversion at 300 W. Fayette St. and the 232,000-square-foot multifamily conversion at 210 N. Charles St.
Byrnes, the company president and an unabashed city booster, is also leading the renovation and leasing of the Redwood Exchange at 233 E. Redwood St. and the Vickers Exchange at 225 E. Redwood St., with Werner’s restaurant at street level.
The investment in the Cokesbury building “represents another strong vote of confidence for the City of Baltimore, the future of its commercial real estate industry and the rapidly-improving business climate downtown” as the number of COVID-19 cases declines, he said in a statement.
“Energy is returning to every corner of the city with employees migrating back to work in larger numbers, business people and local residents returning to restaurants and warmer weather bringing more people out of their homes,” he said. “In addition, Royal Farms Arena, Lexington Market and Harborplace will soon be jumping again.”
Other signs of post-COVID activity are that several new restaurants have opened recently along the corridor, including Darker Than Blue Grille at 413 N. Charles St. and Allora at 1005 N. Charles St., and the Mount Vernon Marketplace at Centre Street and Park Avenue has resumed full operations. A new owner just obtained a liquor license to open a restaurant to replace the former Mount Vernon Stable & Saloon at 909 N. Charles St.
On the hospitality side, the Ulysses hotel is set to open later this year within the Latrobe Building at Charles and Read streets, and Hotel Revival, Hotel Indigo and the Ivy Hotel are reporting an uptick in occupancy levels. The Walters Art Museum, Peabody Institute and Enoch Pratt Free Library are again mounting programs and exhibits that are drawing visitors.
Byrnes said the healthiest and most active segment of the Baltimore City commercial office sector coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the market for private office spaces under 5,000 square feet, which is what the Cokesbury building has.
“Most of these are being leased by entrepreneurs living close by that have grown tired of working from home and feel stifled,” Byrnes said. “They recognize the many advantages of separating work from home, as well as the valuable benefits of interacting with clients and colleagues in person. The volume of interest in smaller spaces continues to increase.”