City, county compete for agency site

April 06, 1991|By Edward Gunts

As part of an aggressive effort to convince the federal Health Care Financing Administration to move its headquarters from Baltimore County to downtown, officials of the Schmoke administration are making available a two-acre parcel near the Camden Yards stadium for the project and have launched a search for a development team.

The Baltimore County government doesn't have a site to offer but is working closely with eight development teams that already control land in the county and would like to build the 664,000-square-foot project.

The two jurisdictions are taking different approaches as bidding heats up for the HCFA project, which will serve as the national headquarters for the Medicare and Medicaid systems. Congress agreed in 1989 to appropriate funds to consolidate the agency, whose 3,000 employees are currently spread through five buildings in Woodlawn. The new building is expected to cost $97 million, and the federal government will buy it once it is completed.

The General Services Administration will seek proposals later this spring from groups interested in building the headquarters. After consulting with HCFA, the GSA has limited the geographical areas under consideration to a portion of downtown and an area stretching from Woodlawn to Owings Mills in Baltimore County.

The size of the HCFA project and the number of employees to be housed makes it one of the most important federal projects planned for the area, and competition among builders is expected to be fierce.

For Baltimore, the project is considered important not only because of the employees it would bring but because it would fit in with the Schmoke administration's goal of making the city a center for health- and medical-oriented organizations.

Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc., the quasi-public agency that oversees downtown redevelopment for the city, issued a request this week for qualifications from interested builders and developers and has set an April 19 deadline.

The city has made the block bounded by Paca, Pratt, Eutaw and Camden streets, north of the Camden Yards stadium, available for the project. Officials plan to award the site to the builder or developer considered best qualified to compete for the project, and that developer will have to submit a proposal to the GSA and compete against other bidders.

Other developers with sufficient property within the specified area in the city will be able to compete against the city-selected team, according to the GSA.

Jeff Middlebrooks, vice president for development at Center City-Inner Harbor, pointed out that the Camden Yards parcel is close to the Metro and light-rail lines and the MARC commuter rail line to Washington, as well as Interstate 395 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. In addition, 1,500 off-site parking spaces will be offered to HCFA employees free of charge for at least 10 years.

Richard Story, executive director of Baltimore County's Economic Development Commission, said his office has identified eight development groups with land. He said county officials intend to work with all of them during the competition process and will do whatever they can to assist a successful county bidder.

John Thompson, director of business and public affairs for the GSA's mid-Atlantic region, said the review process will begin later this year and that the timetable for a site selection will depend on the number of proposals his office receives.

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