State to seek proposals for Camden Yards site

April 20, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Responding to criticism from the Orioles and others about the state's plan to add an office building to the south end of the B&O Warehouse in Camden Yards, the Maryland Stadium Authority has come up with an alternative proposal that may result in cancellation of plans to build the offices.

State officials now say they will issue a request for proposals from private groups interested in redeveloping the south end of the warehouse as it currently exists.

If there is an acceptable proposal, they say, they will go with that rather than build an eight-story, $18.5 million addition to the warehouse for a new headquarters for the State Highway Administration.

Even if there isn't an acceptable proposal, they say, the state will not proceed with construction of the controversial addition before the new stadium opens in April of 1992.

Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said the members of that group have decided that they do not want any construction work to be underway at Camden Yards when the ballpark opens.

Because construction of an eight-story addition to the warehouse probably could not be completed before then even if work began this spring, he said, state officials have decided to hold off on any plans for an addition at least until the stadium is open.

And because the pressure of completing the office addition by Opening Day 1992 is off, he explained, Stadium Authority officials now have more time to study alternatives for developing the rest of the stadium site.

"At this point, we are not going to proceed with the addition to the warehouse," Mr. Belgrad said. "We certainly have not abandoned our plans for an addition to the warehouse, and we hope to continue our discussions with the State Highway Administration."

But "there have been groups and individuals that have questioned the proposed addition to the warehouse,

and now that we have the time to carefully review our options, we should see what's out there," he said.

Mr. Belgrad said the Stadium Authority was already planning to seek proposals from groups interested in redeveloping a 5-acre parcel on the east side of the 1,116-foot-long warehouse, which is being rehabilitated as a backdrop to the Camden Yards ballpark. He said the state will now seek bids for the southern end of the warehouse and the interior of the historic Camden Station as part of the same request for proposals.

"We retained the warehouse because of its historical importance," he said. "If there were no consider

ations other than aesthetic considerations, we would want to retain the warehouse in its present state.

"But we have to balance our aesthetic goals with the need to reduce costs to the state. . . . If a proposal comes back that would tie the south end of the warehouse to development of the [land on the] east side of the warehouse, it would be the best solution for us," he said.

State officials have said the Highway Administration would be a good tenant for the south end of the warehouse because the rent it would pay would help defray the cost of rehabilitating the building as a backdrop to the ballpark.

The addition is needed, Stadium Authority officials say, because the southern end of the warehouse alone wouldn't provide enough space for

the Highway Administration, which needs about 220,000 square feet. And the northern end, overlooking the playing field, is reserved for the Orioles and other baseball-related uses.

Earlier this year, the plan drew criticism from members of Baltimore's Architectural Review Board, who warned that it would detract from the ambience and simplicity of the original ballpark design. Other critics include the owners of the Orioles and baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, who recently conveyed his concerns about the addition to Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Russ Ulrich, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said representatives of his agency have already begun considering alternative office locations in case the Camden Yards site is not available.

Mr. Belgrad said the Stadium Authority has not ruled out the possibility of taking the addition planned for the west side of the warehouse and shifting it to the east side of the warehouse.

Because the east side is not visible from within the stadium, he said, work would be able to proceed there without making the stadium site appear unfinished by Opening Day. But he reiterated that the Stadium Authority wants the entire Camden Yards site to look as good as possible.

"Our objective was to construct a traditional, state-of the-art stadium," he said. "That's our first and primary objective. We're not going to take any steps that are detrimental to completing that objective. We want to ensure than when Baltimore becomes the focus of national and international attention on Opening Day, we're going to put our best foot forward."

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