A sprawling, $200 million "medical mart" intended to attract international clients and generate millions for the local economy has been approved by the Maryland Stadium Authority as a possible neighbor for the new baseball stadium in Camden Yards.
The authority voted yesterday to begin an exclusive nine-month negotiation session with the Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd. of Baltimore and Singapore over the proposed project.
The medical mart would be in historic Camden Station, on property east of the B&O warehouse and in the southern portion of the warehouse.
Plans call for up to 2.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space for medical groups and suppliers.
Questions about marketing, traffic and the feasibility of such a giant development near the Inner Harbor need to be answered, said authority Executive Director Bruce Hoffman.
"We'll give them a chance to prove their project," Hoffman said during a brief authority meeting in the offices of the Baltimore Development Corp.
"It has the potential to turn Baltimore into an area for life sciences. This is perhaps a once in a lifetime job."
The authority solicited proposals this spring for private development on the 85-acre stadium site as a means to defray $205 million acquisition and construction costs for the baseball stadium and surrounding parking lot. Legislation allowing the authority to develop the site is expected to be introduced in the 1992 General Assembly, Hoffman said.
Thomas Marudas, vice president for the Parkway/Swirnow Group, said his firm is delighted to have been chosen over five developers who proposed building projects like a day-care center and office space for non-profit and international trade companies on the site.
Marudas said he will travel to Germany in mid-November to attend an international medical supply and equipment show to "zero in" on companies that may be interested in renting space in the medical mart.
The planned 2.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space includes an International Life Sciences Center. The Camden Station would be a gateway and information center for the mart.
A separate plan by the Parkway/Swirnow group includes building a 1,000-room hotel near the site of the medical mart if a $150 million plan to expand the Baltimore Convention Center through the sale of revenue bonds is approved by the General Assembly.
The private group this summer volunteered to donate $425,000 toward an architectural study of the convention center expansion in exchange for the air rights above the expansion for construction of the 35 to 40-story hotel. The state Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee voted this summer to not release $850,000 needed for design costs to kickoff the expansion, although legislators said the committee could reconsider the issue.
The Parkway/Swirnow group has also requested the right to develop a city-owned block bordered by Howard, Camden, Pratt and Eutaw streets.
DTC Jeff Middlebrooks, of the Baltimore Development Corp., said the firm will meet with the Swirnow group to "flush out" their development proposal for that area.
"This is an economic generator," Marudas said. "Health-related costs make up 12 percent of our Gross National Product. There is a serious market out there to tap with the foreign market. And our location is strong, we are near the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland. It's a strong infrastructure."
Marudas said a report by the Legg Mason Realty Group on the medical mart concluded that such a project would be successful if "secondary facilities" like the hotel and expanded convention center were built to complement it. The study stated that the complex would generate a demand for 1,082 hotel rooms per day in the metropolitan area.
In another matter, the authority voted to enter into a licensing agreement with Eastern Athletic Services for the sale of commemorative, silver coins depicting opening day at the new ballpark.
Each of the coins, to cost $29.95 each, will net a $2.25 profit for the authority for every coin sold. There will be 47,000 coins minted in the stamped, limited edition, which will go on sale next February.
The the coin, the size of a silver dollar, will hold an image of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards while the other side may have the Orioles logo, said authority official Alison Asti.