Mount Fuji, Buddha and a camel ride Worldbridge promoters air detailed plans at public hearing on proposed cultural center.

May 03, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

Officials of the proposed Worldbridge Centre, a trade center and cultural theme park planned for a 1,000-acre tract in Middle River, have described a dazzling array of exhibits and rides that would make up "Asia Pacific Worldpark."

A replica of Mount Fuji in Japan, a Hindu temple from India, elephants from Thailand, Buddhas from Korea, a "Pirates of the South China Sea" ride and Arabian horse shows were among the many features that would make up the 60-acre theme park.

One theater would simulate a rough ride on a camel; patrons' seats would move as they watch a film.

"You'd actually have the sense of riding a camel," Chris Delaporte, director of development for the Worldbridge project, promised yesterday at a public hearing in Essex, where Worldbridge officials gave the most detailed public presentation the project to date.

"I know you're all waiting for that one," Delaporte said of the ride, causing a ripple of laughter.

Delaporte, who illustrated his presentation with slides, again drew laughter when he showed a slide of the Dali Lama, who, he said, "endorses Worldbridge."

Reaction from the crowd of about 100 people in the cafeteria of Eastern Vocational-Technical High School ranged from those totally against the project to those who expressed support but said they are worried about the mammoth project's impact on their neighborhood.

One man, who identified himself as "a Marine, a die-hard Marine," began by loudly criticizing the project.

"We beat them on the battlefield, and they come over here and buy our politicians and take our businesses away," the man said said. "I think this [Worldbridge] should be shut down right now."

Others asked about the project's impact on wetlands, on water and sewage capacity, on roads police, fire and schools.

Another woman worried that should the project go forward, it would cause nearby residential properties to skyrocket in value, increasing property taxes.

"I think the concept is great," she said. "And I think it could be beneficial to the area, but I would hate to see anyone hurt" by higher property taxes.

Baltimore County Councilman Vince Gardina, D-5th, who represents the area, organized the information meeting. County

Executive Roger B. Hayden also attended, as did Jim Luck, manager of Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Commercial Centers division.

After Gardina highlighted proposed zoning regulations that would allow Worldbridge and other such theme parks to exist in a manufacturing zone, Luck showed an eight-minute film presenting the overall concept of Worldbridge.

The underlying theme of the center would be to bridge the cultural gap between North America and Asian countries.

The film separated the project into five parts:

* The cultural theme park "Asia Pacific Worldpark";

* A 1-million-square foot Pacific World Trade Center;

* A hotel and conference center;

* A 500,000-square foot "East/West Retail Shopping Center";

* And a residential-recreational complex, featuring luxury homes and an 18-hole golf course.

The audience snickered during a film segment that described the area as having people with "an average income of $40,000."

Delaporte, former director of recreation and parks for Baltimore, had the longest and most detailed presentation.

He said the theme park would have a "Whole Earth Pavilion," which would feature the world's largest globe inside a dome. The globe, 150 feet in diameter, would spin as the Earth does and would appear to have cloud cover circling about its surface, he said.

Nearby would be the Worldpark, which would be divided into seven segments, each representing a separate Asian nation or culture. Those areas would include: Japan, India, Thailand, Korea, Democratic China, Tibet and Central Asia, or Mongolia.

All the different "worlds" would be connected by the "Spice Route Waterway."

"You could go by boat or walkway to each country," Delaporte said.

He said there would be some rides but, overall, the theme park would be geared to exhibits and entertainment with live shows, films and museums.

Although concentrating on the theme park, Delaporte did show a slide of what the trade center would look like. The slide showed a building layered with terraces -- a unique design by one of the youngest, most talented architects in the country, said Delaporte, using the word "eclectic" to describe the style.

One man in the audience was not impressed. "It looks like a 6-year-old did that," he said.

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