If University of Baltimore President H. Mebane Turner is becoming known as the "Octopus of Mount Vernon" because of all the buildings his school has acquired near its midtown campus, is Roger Chylinski becoming the Squid of the Inner Harbor?
It's starting to look that way.
As part of an ongoing expansion effort to accommodate a fast-growing student body, the president of the Baltimore International Culinary College recently took control of two more building complexes in the heart of Baltimore's financial district: the former Merchants Club at 206 E. Redwood St. and the former Stark Office Supply buildings at 202, 204 and 206 Water St.
The acquisitions follow moves in recent years by the college to purchase the building at 25 S. Calvert St. and the former Charles E. Weglein School No. 2 at Pratt Street and Central Avenue in Little Italy.
All supplement the college's original headquarters at 15 to 25 S. Gay St.
Mr. Chylinski said that the college needed more space because its enrollment this fall is the full-time equivalent of 400 students, the highest in its 19-year history. He noted that there is plenty of real estate available at good prices within a short distance of existing college facilities as a result of the recession, and the college has taken advantage of that situation to meet its space needs.
"This gives us 90,000 square feet of space in a two-block area," he said of the most recent acquisitions.
"We don't know what we would have done without the additional space."
The historic Merchants Club, which was Baltimore's oldest private dining club when it experienced financial troubles and closed several years ago, reopened last week as the college's Redwood Center. It contains the college library, computer labs, classrooms and administrative offices.
Mr. Chylinski said that the college is leasing the 87-year-old building from two banks that foreclosed on the previous owner and has a contract to buy it later this year for $665,000.
The college is an ideal user for the property, he said, because it is not subdividing the building for use by multiple tenants as some developers considered doing. "Our intention is not to alter the building physically whatsoever."
The college is making part of the building available to the business community for private meetings and other functions and would be willing to explore plans to reopen a private dining club on the premises if there is sufficient interest, he added.
The college bought the Stark buildings on Water Street in August for $550,000. They will be renovated this fall to contain space for a cooking demonstration theater, a college bookstore, a recreation center, communications offices and a placement office. Funds for both acquisitions are coming out of "working capital" rather than loans or bonds, he added.
The Weglein School in Little Italy, which was purchased several years ago for $2 million, will become the college's Center for Little Italy. The $500,000 first phase of a $3.5 million conversion will be started this fall, but completion of the entire project is several years away.
Mr. Chylinski said that the college has become one of the largest in the country that is devoted solely to training students for jobs in the hospitality industry.
He attributed the steady growth in enrollment to its specialized programs, its European Center outside Dublin, Ireland, and its 93 percent success rate at placing students in permanent jobs within 60 days of graduation, among other factors. Its ultimate goal, he said, is to have a student enrollment of 1,500.
Seventy percent of the students come from Maryland and 30 percent from outside the state. Although the college has about 100 apartments in Mount Vernon for its students, Mr. Chylinski said that it is no secret that it is in the market for student housing near the campus.