Stadium architects tone down warehouse addition Redesign for highway offices still has critics.

February 20, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

Architects have redesigned the eight-story office addition proposed for the B&O warehouse in Camden Yards in favor of a more modern design that includes 130 windows that overlook the stadium parking lot, not the ballfield.

The building, which would house the State Highway Administration, would be placed south of the 46,800-seat baseball stadium. It would be joined to the historic B&O warehouse by a glass atrium and would be capped by a tall brick elevator shaft.

The costs of constructing the building and renovating the warehouse are estimated at $24.6 million, which would be generated through the sale of 25-year revenue bonds. The sale is scheduled May 1.

Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for May 1, according to the project's financing plan, and completion is projected by July 1, 1992. The new stadium is scheduled to open in April 1992.

The Maryland Stadium Authority and the highway administration are currently negotiating a 25-year lease for the building.

Plans for the building have gone through numerous revisions because the city's Architectural Review Board objected to the design. Board members balked at a green roof with gables, large windows and a turret-shaped stair tower -- features that apparently have been eliminated.

The most recent rendering of the building was made Feb. 13 by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, the Kansas City, Mo., firm that designed the ballpark. It was submitted to board members last Friday.

A copy of the building's design and financing plan, obtained yesterday by The Evening Sun, shows a square, modern office complex of 81,131 square feet that would adjoin the southern end of the warehouse.

The total size of the southern portion of the warehouse, including the addition, would be 218,944 square feet. Highway administration officials say they need all that space for their 1,200 employees.

The plans will be reviewed by legislative budget committees and analysts, the state treasurer's office and Gov. William Donald Schaefer before they are made final, said Liz Homer, SHA deputy administrator.

Financing is to be provided through the Maryland Economic Development Corp., a state agency, which is to purchase the land from the stadium authority and sell bonds to construct the office building and renovate the southern half of the warehouse. The SHA then is to lease the space from MEDCO.

"The bonds are not sold and the agreement is not signed, but the State Highway Administration and the Maryland Stadium Authority are positive it's a sensible deal. And unless someone tells us it's crazy, we'll go ahead," Homer said.

Homer declined to say what the rental payments would be on the new building, but she said the SHA would save about $15 million over the 25-year term of its lease while the state builds equity ownership in the building.

The SHA now operates out of three leased buildings in Baltimore's Mount Vernon section and has been seeking to move into one large office building. State officials have been lobbying to move more state agencies into state-owned buildings because they argue it will save the state money in the long run.

Homer said the office addition to the warehouse "adds something to the site."

"Looking south, there is a long, narrow view that ends with highway ramps and the large tanks of South Baltimore," she said. "This would provide a more urban backdrop and bring the eye back to the stadium. It enhances the site."

But not everyone is pleased with the proposal.

The Orioles, who have signed a 15-year lease agreement with the authority to rent the stadium, have been frozen out of the design phase of the warehouse addition because they oppose the plan, a source close to the ballclub said.

Oriole Vice President Janet Marie Smith said the building would obstruct the southern end of the Eutaw Street pedestrian corridor planned by the ballclub and the authority.

The northern half of the 51-foot-wide, 1,116-foot-long warehouse will serve as a backdrop for the stadium and contain offices for the stadium authority and the Orioles as well as souvenir shops, a cafeteria and party suites that overlook the playing field.

"Any addition to the warehouse goes against the original master plan and efforts to preserve the building," Smith said. "The original plan of the ballpark was to make it a traditional, urban ballpark. This completely blocks the view from the walkway to the Bromo Seltzer Tower and into the city. It becomes a visual intrusion."

State Sen. George Della, whose district includes part of the 85-acre stadium site, also has questions about the proposed addition.

"I don't know what the necessity is," said Della, D-City. "If it brings about cost savings, I wouldn't find it objectionable. If it doesn't bring cost savings, it's a different story. Communities will be concerned that they will be taking parking spaces that were originally earmarked for stadium purposes."

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