Panel defers decision on Redwood St. proposal

November 16, 1990|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

The developer of a planned 32-story office tower in Baltimore's financial district will have to try again to convince the tower's neighbors and city planners that the project justifies closing part of Redwood Street.

The Baltimore Planning Commission yesterday deferred action on bills that developer Leonard Attman needs as the first steps toward construction of his proposed office project.

Ernest Freeman, the director of planning, asked the commission to defer action to give his staff more time to work out a compromise between the developer and opponents of the project.

The bills, which ultimately will be voted on by the City Council, would permit the closing of Redwood Street and amend the city's Financial District Urban Renewal Plan. Yesterday's delay means the the Planning Commission probably will not send the council its recommendations on the bills until after the first of next year.

Attman, and architects Ayers Saint Gross Inc., propose to close two of five lanes on Redwood Street in order to construct a 430,000-square-foot Baltimore Financial Centre at Redwood and South Charles streets. The lanes would be converted into a pedestrian arcade over which the building would be constructed.

Architect Adam Gross said this design would create a floor plate of approximately 16,000 square feet in the building. Floors of this size are needed to attract major tenants and make the project financially viable, he said.

But opponents of the project complained that closing the lanes would create traffic jams and make it difficult to get service trucks into the area. They also said the building is too large for the area.

Ira C. Cooke, a lawyer for 7 E. Redwood Limited Partnership, which would be adjacent to the proposed building, said the developers failed to show an overriding public interest that justifies the lane closings.

"It's one thing to close an alley," he said. "It's one thing to close a walkway. But it's a far different thing to close more than 50 percent of a downtown thoroughfare because a developer dealt himself this hand."

Although Attman owns three buildings south of Redwood Street as well as the Hansa Haus north of Redwood Street, his ability to build on the site is limited. Because he does not own the air rights above his building at 21 S. Charles St., he could expand only toward Redwood Street. At one time, project designers suggested building over Redwood Street and the Hansa Haus.

Gross and other members of the development team told the commission that the latest plan is the least disruptive for the area. They said the building will have little effect on the surrounding traffic. Tenants for the building would park in an 250-car underground garage.

They also argued that the public would benefit from the large open arcade that would feature art galleries and shops.

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