The T. Rowe Price Group today celebrated a milestone in its move from Baltimore’s traditional downtown to a de-facto new downtown, the glitzy Eastside waterfront.
Yet the main message from Mayor Brandon Scott, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned global headquarters in Harbor Point, was relief and praise that the 85-year-old firm was not abandoning the city altogether.
“Words really can’t do justice to how grateful we are in Baltimore that T. Rowe Price has decided to reaffirm its deep commitment to our great city,” Scott said to a small gathering.
“Thank you, T. Rowe Price, for believing in Baltimore, for betting on Baltimore and doubling down on this great city known as Charm City,” Scott said, drawing applause from company VIPs and other guests.
He stood near the spot where two seven-story buildings and a 4.5 acre public park are scheduled to be completed in 2024.
“I promise that we will work hard to ensure a positive return on the investment that you are making in our city,” Scott vowed.
“This Beautiful Location”
Baltimore leaders are well aware of the symbolism that adheres to the money management giant, which back in 2013 had renewed its lease to stay in the 100 East Pratt Street building where it has been located since 1975.
“Signing this letter of intent signals our ongoing commitment to downtown,” the CEO at the time said after reportedly flirting with the idea of a move to the suburbs or to Harbor Point.
Then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was “thrilled” with the company’s decision to remain.
But T. Rowe Price signaled concern about downtown security in 2019 when its chief executive, Bill Stromberg, wrote a letter complaining about the “negative impact” of squeegee workers on behalf of some of the city’s largest firms and banks.
City Hall eventually responded with a plan to find alternative employment for the young people who clean windshields at busy intersections for tips.
”The decision to move was grounded not only in a commitment to Baltimore, but also in the well-being of our associates” – CEO Rob Sharps.
Then in 2020, the company announced it was signing a 15-year-lease to relocate to Harbor Point. (Officials declined at the time to provide details related to exiting its lease early.)
Today, T. Rowe Price CEO Rob Sharps summed up the move this way:
“The decision to move to Harbor Point was grounded not only in a commitment to the city of Baltimore, but also in the well-being of our associates, the chance to custom design buildings to suit our needs, and the opportunity to be in this beautiful location, which we believe will help us attract and retain top talent.”
He pointed to company gestures that he said signify the company’s commitment to the city.
They include investments in Baltimore Corps, the Rash Field makeover near Federal Hill and the No Boundaries Coalition.
The company’s move is part of the steady exodus of corporate offices and stores from the city’s central business district in recent years.
Bank of America’s local office, Transamerica Corp. and the Gordon Feinblatt law firm have left, and the jewelry company Pandora is down-sizing ahead of a planned departure.
T. Rowe Price’s new HQ is part of phase 3 of the Beatty Development Group’s project on the former site of the Allied Signal plant, located between Harbor East and Fells Point.
The development, which started with a 21-story tower for the energy company Exelon, apartment buildings, office space and a hotel, “required nearly half a billion dollars of investment,” CEO Michael Beatty said.
There were loud protests in 2013 when the city proposed a $107 million TIF (tax increment financing) plan for the company to build on the land.
Some of the funds were directed to clean up and build roads and sewers, and other TIF funds helped pay for the public park and a connecting bridge.
Groups representing city residents, labor unions and faith communities argued that the financing package would divert needed resources for the benefit of a luxury development.
Arguing that the whole city would benefit from a new waterfront destination, Beatty’s lobbyists pushed the plan forcefully at City Hall.
The City Council, including then 2nd District Councilman Brandon Scott, dutifully approved the funding.
“I remember having discussions about Harbor Point as a freshman Council person,” Scott said today, reminding the crowd that then-City Comptroller Joan Pratt voted against the TIF when it came before the Board of Estimates.
“The comptroller had a little bit of a different opinion on it than I did,” he remarked, drawing knowing chuckles from the audience.