Plan for state office near new stadium draws objections

February 08, 1991|By Edward Gunts

The Maryland Stadium Authority unveiled revised plans yesterday for an eight-story, $18.5 million office building that it wants to add to the south end of the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards to serve as a headquarters for the State Highway Administration.

The latest plan rekindled opposition to the project from some members of Baltimore's Architectural Review Board, who warned that the new Orioles ballpark could become "smothered" with development if city and state planners don't carefully control growth.

One board member, Phoebe Stanton, said during a review session for the project that she was afraid it would be the first of jTC many buildings that could obscure the 1,116-foot-long warehouse, which was preserved as a backdrop to the stadium.

"With all the new interest in the stadium area," she said, "that warehouse could be smothered with new buildings as development moves westward from the Inner Harbor. . . . Pretty soon, the stadium is going to disappear."

Dr. Stanton also questioned why the Highway Administration couldn't move to Howard Street or another area that needs revitalization. "Big pieces of downtown are derelict, while the stadium builds more and more," she said. "I don't think that's the right way to plan a city at all."

"There clearly are policy issues here as well as design issues," said Mario Schack, another review-board member. "A great deal of effort and a great deal of funds have gone into the rehabilitation of this warehouse. . . . If something happens on either side, we have to be concerned."

Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Stadium Authority, said after the meeting that his office was in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that would enable the Highway Administration to move to Camden Yards and that he expected the agreement to be executed shortly.

He said the plan calls for the Stadium Authority to sell the land for the office addition to the Maryland Economic Development Corp., which would construct the building and lease it to the Highway Administration. Funds to build the addition would come from the sale of bonds, which would be repaid from rent collected from the Highway Administration, he explained. The administration would also occupy space in the south end of the warehouse, and its lease payments would help defray the cost of renovation.

The final agreement would have to be approved by the Board of Public Works and other state agencies before construction could begin.

Mr. Hoffman also said that the Stadium Authority has hired RTKL Associates Inc. to help prepare guidelines for development of a six-acre parcel just east of the warehouse and that the stadium authority would issue a request for proposals from developers in about two weeks.

"It's funny," he said of the warehouse discussion. "We had to defend keeping it. Now we have to defend hiding it."

A representative of the Orioles, who will move to the $105 million ballpark next year, said club management has been opposed to the office addition from the beginning and that hearing the concerns of the review board members "only reinforces our original position."

Janet Marie Smith, vice president of stadium planning and development for the Orioles, described the addition as a "kissing cousin to the Constellation Center," the two-story ticket booth that blocks the view of one side of the frigate Constellation in the Inner Harbor.

"I think it's the same issue -- the idea of obstructing something that's historic," Ms. Smith said. "It's not that it's a badly designed addition. It's that it's an addition at all."

She declined to say what action the ballclub might take. "We've had a number of private discussions with the Stadium Authority about this and will continue to," she said.

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