Is Metro West Angling to Take State Center’s Tenants?

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A rendering of a proposed parking garage at Metro West, via Greene Street Ventures and Design Collective

Are all the office tenants at State Center moving to Metro West?

One might get that impression from the proposed design of a 2,200-car garage being planned for the last major development parcel at Metro West, the former Social Security Administration office complex off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

New owners have acquired the vacant Metro West complex, which has more than one million square feet of space, and are preparing to lease it to office tenants.

Yesterday, at a meeting of the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel, developers unveiled preliminary designs for a 10-level garage they want to build to accommodate the tenants who move to Metro West.

The garage is being planned for land bounded by Saratoga and Mulberry streets, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Metro West offices. Greene Street Ventures, a collaboration of Caves Valley Partners and B&B Realty Services, is the developer. Design Collective is the architect.

Because of its height and location, the garage will be a prominent feature on the cityscape, especially to those driving past it on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

To distinguish the garage from other buildings in the area, the designers told the review panelists they have been exploring the idea of incorporating a graphic design on the exterior.

One idea was to spell out “METRO WEST” in large letters. Another was to use a wordless design, the Maryland state flag.

That’s where the connection to State Center came up.

“I don’t know that I see the need to put a giant flag on the building,” said design panel member Richard Burns. “Unless you’re trying to move all the employees from State Center.”

State Center is another large government complex less than a mile from Metro West, also visible from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It houses hundreds of state government employees, but its fate has been uncertain since December, when Gov. Larry Hogan and other members of the state’s Board of Public Works voted to rescind leases and withdraw support for a $1.5 billion mixed-use redevelopment project there.

This month, at the governor’s request, the Maryland Stadium Authority voted to launch a $30,000 study to see if the 28-acre State Center parcel would be a good site for a sports arena.

Speculation has arisen that if the State Center redevelopment project doesn’t proceed with upgrading workspace for state employees, the state might move its employees out of the aging office buildings there. One place that could house them is Metro West.

At the design review meeting yesterday, the developers said they weren’t prepared to talk about their plans for the Metro West office space, except to say they are working to make the entire property attractive for tenants and that building a garage is part of that strategy. “The building, to be viable, needs adequate parking,” said development team member Larry Boltansky, of B&B.

Architect Ryan Kautz said the idea for a graphic was to give the garage some visual interest.

“We thought that would be an interesting statement as you approach from the southwest,” he told the panel. It’s not meant to signal who the office tenants might be, he said. “It’s more about giving back to the community.”

Boltansky noted after the meeting that the University of Maryland-Baltimore campus is just south of Metro West, and the state flag graphic could be a way of recognizing it. “We thought it could tie it all in.”

Would Metro West’s developers like to get state office workers to move from State Center?

“We’re open to any office use,” Boltansky said.

Ed Gunts

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