State planning to build Camden Yards offices

January 09, 1991|By Edward Gunts

The state of Maryland is planning to spend up to $18.5 million to add a 128,000-square-foot office building to the south end of the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards to keep its prospective projected tenant, the State Highway Administration, from moving outside the city.

Bruce Hoffman, Maryland Stadium Authority executive director, showed Baltimore's Architectural Review Board preliminary plans yesterday that call for an eight-story addition to be constructed on the western side of the warehouse, which serves as a backdrop for the $104 million baseball stadium that is scheduled to open in the spring of 1992.

Mr. Hoffman said the State Highway Administration plans to vacate three buildings in Mount Vernon when its lease expires at the end of this year.

He said the agency, which was originally negotiating to move to the warehouse only, would still be willing to move to the warehouse if it could be enlarged to provide about 220,000 square feet of space at rental rates comparable to what the agency is paying now.

Mr. Hoffman said the Highway Administration can't expand into the north end of the warehouse, which overlooks the playing field, because it is being reserved for the Baltimore Orioles and other baseball-related users.

He said the Stadium Authority would like to obtain design approval in time to begin construction this spring and complete the building by the end of the year.

The Highway Administration would be an ideal tenant for the warehouse in many ways, he said, because its 1,100 to 1,200 employees would use the cafeterias and other businesses that will be created to accommodate the baseball crowds but would clear out long before the 7:30 p.m. start time for night games.

Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. of Kansas City, the architects, presented plans that call for the addition to have a brick and precast stone exterior, punched-out windows and a southern profile similar to the 50-foot-wide warehouse but separated from it by a glass connector.

Members of the design review board expressed some dissatisfaction that the designs were so similar to the warehouse and asked the architects to restudy them. They said designing ** an addition that was similar in height and profile to the 1,000-foot-long warehouse would invite unfavorable comparisons of the new building to the old, and that a lower, wider building might be better.

The review board also saw plans yesterday by Cho Wilks and Benn Inc. for the exterior renovation of Camden Station, which is being restored as part of the stadium project. The plans call for the station's Camden Street facade to be taken back to its appearance in 1867, when the building had a tall Georgian steeple in the center and two Italianate stair towers. The center steeple was taken down in 1881 and replaced with a shorter cupola.

Mr. Hoffman said the Stadium Authority has not identified a use for the station but wants to repair the exterior so it is presentable by opening day 1992. He said the state has $1.2 million for the project, earned primarily from leasing of stadium property after it was acquired from its previous owners.

Members of the review board differed in their reaction to the idea of rebuilding the station's center tower. Members Phoebe Stanton and George Qualls said they thought it would be an unnecessary expenditure to to replicate it. "It's a folly," Dr. Stanton said. "I think we have to be discriminating about things like this . . . I don't see any point spending public monies to restore something that wasn't very good in the beginning, and I'm usually the person who wants to save everything."

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