Rouse to oversee development of Columbus Center

July 26, 1991|By Edward Gunts

The Rouse Co. of Columbia was chosen yesterday to manage construction and development of the $164 million Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration, the first Inner Harbor project in the 1990s for the company that helped transform Baltimore's waterfront in the 1980s.

Stanley Heuisler, chairman of the non-profit board planning the project, said the nine-member board voted to hire Rouse to supply the buildingand development management staff to create the multifaceted marine research center.

It will be built on the northern half of Piers 5 and 6 and is scheduled to open in phases starting in 1994.

Rouse, a nationally prominent developer whose Harborplace and Gallery at Harborplace projects helped fuel the revitalization of the Inner Harbor during the 1980s, was competing for the contract with Manekin Corp., another large Baltimore-area developer.

Mr. Heuisler said that even a Manekin representative likened the competition between the two companies to the battle between David and Goliath and that board members felt they had no choice but to go with Goliath.

"The board felt that this project has already moved to Goliath status, and we couldn't avoid being impressed by the Rouse Co.'s depth and enormous track record in multi-use waterfront projects throughout the country," he said. "With a project of this magnitude and certitude, we really have to go with the biggest and strongest company.

"It's the shot in the arm that Baltimore needs in terms of physical development and economic development, and we're very excited to be picked," said Mathias J. DeVito, Rouse's chairman and chief executive officer.

"We all need this, and we're going to do our best to bring it off in Rouse style."

The Columbus Center is being designed by British architect Richard Rogers and others with the aim of bringing together in one place on Baltimore's waterfront research laboratories for marine biotechnology, a maritime museum, conference space, classrooms and other facilities.

Mr. Heuisler said the board will begin negotiations with Rouse immediately on a contract and that he hopes to have the company begin work as soon as possible.

Douglas McGregor, executive vice president of Rouse, said he and Mr. DeVito would be closely involved with the project and that Robert Minutoli, a Rouse vice president, would be the senior development director with day-to-day responsibility for it.

Rouse will set up an office in downtown Baltimore near the site so that its officials can hold meetings there and monitor construction activity, Mr. McGregor said.

The quasi-public board has raised more than $14 million for design and construction of the center. It has obtained $11.5 million in federal funds, $1.68 million in state funds, $1 million in city funds and $410,000 in private funds.

The group is seeking a parking revenue bond issue of up to $12 million and $20 million in federal funds during the 1991-1992 fiscal year. Mr. Rogers' preliminary design will be unveiled in the fall, and construction is expected to begin by late next year.

During its meeting yesterday, the Columbus Center board also agreed to hire Korn/Ferry International, a well-known executive search firm, to screen applicants for the position of executive director of the Columbus Center.

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