'Medmart' approved at Oriole Park Facility to be built in Camden Station

October 29, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Developer Richard Swirnow's plan to build a $600 million medical trade mart and conference center east of the Camden Yards stadium has won the backing of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

After receiving a recommendation that the medical mart represented a "once in a lifetime" development opportunity for the state, Stadium Authority members voted unanimously yesterday to give Mr. Swirnow's group a nine-month "exclusive negotiating privilege" to prove it can move ahead with the project.

The Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd., a joint venture of Parkway Holdings Ltd. of Singapore and the Swirnow Group of Baltimore, is building the $600 million HarborView condominium complex along Key Highway. It was one of four groups that responded last July to the state's request for development proposals for part of the 85-acre Camden Yards sports complex.

Parkway/Swirnow has been granted exclusive development rights until Aug. 1, 1992, for the interior of the historic Camden Station, the south end of the B&O warehouse, and the air rights above a 6.5-acre tract east of the B&O warehouse.

Although the Stadium Authority's action does not in itself guarantee that the medical mart will be built, it gives Mr. Swirnow the go-ahead to begin making detailed plans and lining up prospective tenants for the project, officially called the International Life Sciences Center.

Preliminary plans call for the construction of up to 2.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space for medical groups and suppliers, including a low-rise base and three towers above the MARC train line.

Mr. Swirnow also has proposed building a 1,000-room convention headquarters hotel in the air rights above a $150 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center.

The entire project could create 4,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs and generate $6 million to $7 million in annual tax revenues.

"We welcome the confidence in Maryland demonstrated by Parkway/Swirnow's desire to construct the Medmart," Stadium Authority Executive Director Bruce Hoffman and Department of Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer said in a letter to Mr. Swirnow. "We share your enthusiastic belief that this project can be of great economic importance to the state of Maryland, as well as the city of Baltimore."

Tom Marudas, a vice president of Parkway/Swirnow, said, "We're looking forward to sitting down with the Stadium Authority to discuss the site and what we can do.

"Now that there is a site, we can move ahead with a serious marketing reconnaissance," he said. "We'll begin that next month with a trip to the world's largest medical equipment and supply exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany."

Mr. Hoffman said that the medical mart could be "a boon to economic development" in the region and a key element of the city's effort to become a center for the life sciences. Other key elements include the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration and the possible relocation to down

town Baltimore of the U. S. Health Care Financing Administration.

"We're going to give them nine months to prove their case," Mr. Hoffman said. "They have money. Their concept is great. The question is whether they can get the international tenants they ,, say they can."

If the developers are still in a position to proceed at the end of the nine-month negotiating period, he said, the Stadium Authority and Department of Transportation would present a detailed land disposition agreement to the state's Board of Public Works, spelling out the terms under which the state property would be developed.

One possible scenario, he said, would be for the developers to lease the state property for a fee and perhaps share a percentage of their profits. Legislation to permit non-sports related development within the Camden Yards site must be approved by the state legislature, he added.

Other proposals for the site included a day-care center, restaurant and offices in Camden Station; an office center for non-profit organizations, international health organizations and companies involved in international trade; and a $17 million people mover linking the Inner Harbor, the baseball stadium and a future football stadium.

Members of a Stadium Authority review panel expressed interest in the people mover proposal from VSL Corp. but said the idea needs further study.

They said that if the Stadium Authority does want a people mover, it should let companies bid competitively for the right to build it.

Mr. Swirnow also has proposed redevelopment of two city-owned parcels in conjunction with the state land, a block bounded by Camden, Pratt, Eutaw and Howard streets, and the air rights above the proposed Convention Center expansion. In light of the Stadium Authority's action, the Baltimore Development Corp. will now move ahead with its review of Mr. Swirnow's plans for the city sites, said Vice President Jeff Middlebrooks.

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