Orioles seek office complex by new stadium

October 24, 1990|By Edward Gunts

A group headed by the Baltimore Orioles would construct downtown Baltimore's newest office complex -- a four-building development containing 600,000 square feet of space -- if state officials allow it to gain control of a 2-acre parcel just east of the B&O warehouse.

The Orioles also would convert the historic Camden Station to a baseball-oriented tourist attraction with an Orioles Hall of Fame, a Maryland Sports Hall of Fame, a large cafe, a novelty store and other attractions, under a two-part proposal presented to the Maryland Stadium Authority last week.

Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Stadium Authority, said the Orioles group is one of two that has expressed interest in redeveloping the station and land east of the warehouse and that authority members are evaluating the plans.

Mr. Hoffman declined to identify the other group or to say what it might build, but he said he hoped to have some decisions from the Stadium Authority about how the Camden Yards property should be developed before the start of the holiday season.

The Orioles proposal came approximately six months after Stadium Authority officials decided not to give the ballclub exclusive rights to develop the southern half of the B&O warehouse, which is being renovated as part of the new baseball stadium under construction in Camden Yards. The authority has since begun exploring plans to have the State Highway Administration move into much of the warehouse space.

The Orioles' latest proposal calls for the four office buildings to be constructed in a row on a narrow sliver of land just east of and running parallel to the 1,016-foot-long warehouse. Designed Kohn Pedersen Fox of New York and Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore, the northern two buildings would rise about 13 stories, and the southern two buildings would rise about 10 stories.

Three of the buildings would be constructed in the air rights over a portion of the light-rail line that is being constructed between Glen Burnie and Hunt Valley. The buildings would be separated from the warehouse by a new street as part of the project. They would have parking on their lower levels.

The station would be restored to its 19th century appearance and converted to house a variety of uses, including a cafe in the east wing, a large baseball novelty store in the west wing and a public passageway to the MARC commuter trains in the central corridor.

The station's second level would include gallery space for the Orioles Hall of Fame, a Maryland Sports Hall of Fame and an exhibit dedicated to old ballparks around the nation. The Orioles also would have guides to give visitors a tour of the new stadium and to lead walking tours to Babe Ruth's birthplace, which is nearby.

Cho Wilks and Benn Inc. would be the architects for the conversion, which would cost $1.5 million to $2.5 million and be completed as the first phase of the Orioles' project so that it would be ready by spring 1992.

Janet Marie Smith, vice president of stadium planning and development for the Orioles, said the Orioles developed the proposal in conjunction with James Rouse's Enterprise Development Co. and the local development company Struever Bros, Eccles & Rouse Inc.

She said the Orioles' interest in developing the station and the land east of the warehouse grows out of the team owners' strong desire to enhance the area in and around the Camden Yards ballpark, which will open in the spring of 1992.

Orioles co-owner Eli Jacobs "has long been a staunch advocate of creating an environment that is conducive to baseball and harmonious with it," she said. "He's very excited about it," she said of the latest proposal.

Ms. Smith added that the Orioles group has not proposed any financial terms for acquiring or leasing the state property, but instead has asked the Stadium Authority to outline the terms it would find acceptable.

Mr. Hoffman said the Stadium Authority has agreed to get back to the Orioles with a response and is awaiting more details from the other development group. He said the authority is open to proposals for the land east of the warehouse because part of its charge is to find ways to keep stadium construction costs down, and developing part of the 85-acre parcel could help defray the state's costs.

He said the Stadium Authority members were impressed by the Orioles' plans, particularly for the station. "Their use was very good," he said. "We were all quite pleased with what we saw and would like to find a way to accept their proposal. But our job is to make sure it's a fair deal for the state, too."

In developing plans for the station, Ms. Smith said, the Orioles were particularly trying to think of components that would make it an attraction even on non-game days.

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