When news broke last week that the first large downtown office building had sold at market price since the recession struck, lots of people wondered who the buyer was.
Blue Ocean Realty LLC is the new owner of the 28-story office tower at 201 N. Charles St. Blue Ocean was neither an institutional investor nor particularly well known in the downtown office market. But as the company gets involved in more transactions, it’s possible it could become a bigger player over the next several years.
Tell me a bit about how Blue Ocean got started and where you’re headed.
We got started in 2004 purchasing distressed apartment communities in Baltimore. We were successful in repositioning them, and one project led to another and we built up a significant portfolio of apartments to 24 communities with 2,000 apartments. About three years ago, we broke into commercial real estate to diversify our portfolio. We live here and work here and want to focus locally. Now most of our acquisitions are commercial and we have about 1 million square feet of office space.
Spending your early years buying distressed multifamily buildings has made some see you as a bargain hunter. Is that a fair way to characterize your approach?
I wouldn’t classify us as a bargain hunter. We’re looking for properties undervalued and present opportunities to add value. One of our greatest strengths is to add value through hands-on management. Because we’re so local in Baltimore — we’re nothing but Baltimore — we’re really able to focus on what the values are.
What do you see in 201 N. Charles and what are the plans for the future?
We have plans for significant upgrades, to add meaningful amenities that would add value, but the building is really functioning beautifully now. It has a reputation for being an outstanding performer in terms of systems and mechanics. We see the value in downtown and we are a believer that downtown will make a resurgence in 10 to 20 years. We purchased 300 W. Fayette and 209 W. Fayette because we believe downtown has all the makings of being the business anchor of the city in the future once again.