The Orioles' future neighborhood Authority studies renovation ideas for Camden Yards.

July 19, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

In the real estate development business, it's a rare and intriguing challenge: take several pieces of vacant and decrepit downtown property, including a boarded up, historic train station adjacent to a modern ballpark, and create something useful.

Developers accepting the challenge on Baltimore's Camden Yards project site came up with a wide range of ideas, from relatively modest restaurants and offices to an elaborate "life sciences" complex of hotels and trade market.

A committee of the Maryland Stadium Authority, along with the state Transportation Department, is reviewing the proposals and will in the next 30 days make recommendations for consideration by the full authority. At issue is what to do with several unused pieces of property on the 85-acre site of the new baseball stadium. Bids were due Monday.

On the modest end of the scale is the proposal by a group headed by Daniel S. Stone and F. Michael Furlong, principals of Stone & Associates Inc.

"Our fear was that any big-scale project would be pie-in-the-sky," Stone said.

Their $2 million project, submitted under the name of the Historic Camden Station, is limited to only the old railroad station on the site. The station's exterior is already undergoing renovation by the Stadium Authority to return it to its prior splendor.

Inside the station, the Historic Camden group proposes to install a 180-seat restaurant in the old waiting room, a day-care center capable of accommodating 150 children, and offices.

The day-care center would be operated by a Cambridge, Mass., company called Bright Horizons. The center would cater to employees and residents in the area as well as commuters coming into the city via the nearby MARC commuter station and planned light rail station, Stone said.

Several developers are cooperating on another plan for the site, led by Greenbaum & Rose, Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse. Their plan makes use of all the sites available, and calls for a building to be constructed on the space east of the 1,000-foot-long warehouse that will form a backdrop to the right field bleachers of the new stadium.

Offices inside the 750,000-square-foot building would specialize in attracting non-profit groups looking to escape the high costs of New York and Washington, said Ted Rouse, a partner with Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse.

The group would convert the train station into an Orioles museum and hall of fame and a retail outlet for Oriole memorabilia and a restaurant. Upstairs would be a catering facility and 500-seat banquet hall to be operated by Classic Catering. The renovation and construction of a new building would cost about $70 million.

The southern end of the warehouse would be converted for about $12 million into an office park targeting three types of tenants: non-profit groups, companies specializing in international trade, and international health organizations, Rouse said.

"It's here and now. It's not a proposal that may or may not happen in the future," Rouse said.

Possibly the most ambitious project is a $600 million development proposed by the Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd. It wants to create a "life sciences" complex to accent the region's growing medical and biotechnology industries, said Thomas Marudas, vice president of the group.

The company wants to use the Camden Yards property as well as land adjacent to the Baltimore Convention Center to develop an International Life Sciences complex containing displays of medical equipment and technology, special biotechnology conference centers and a 1,000-room hotel. The hotel could even be constructed on top of the convention center's proposed expansion.

The group has attracted particular attention because it has offered to facilitate the convention center's expansion by contributing $425,000 to it. The legislature has held up funding for the expansion until $425,000 each of city and private funding could be found.

Another group, VSL Corp. of California, also submitted a proposal. David Wolkin, a marketing official with the company, declined to discuss the plan.

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