One way to assure Baltimore's future prosperity is to build on its strengths, and the "life sciences" -- a term encompassing everything from traditional medical research to the cutting-edge work in marine biotechnology that will be a staple of the new Christopher Columbus Center -- clearly qualifies as a regional specialty. So we welcome the news that plans for a medical trade mart and conference center have received the support of the Maryland Stadium Authority for use of part of the 85-acre Camden Yards sports complex. The developers -- the Parkway/Swirnow Group Ltd. -- were given a nine-month "exclusive negotiating privilege" to explore the feasibility of their plans.
If those plans work out, the new center could draw from a number of nearby institutions -- ranging from the city's two medical schools, to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, to the Columbus Center's Marine Biotechnology center. If the federal Health Care Financing Administration moves to downtown Baltimore, the synergy could be even stronger.
There is a caveat, however. The developer's preliminary proposal is ambitious -- calling for up to 2.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space. Massive buildings, whether high-rise towers or bulkier low-rise buildings, could easily overpower the ambience and charm of the Camden Yards complex that the Stadium Authority has so carefully cultivated. The Medmart project could be a major contribution to Baltimore's future -- provided its developers come up with a respectful design that does not overpower its neighbors.