In a final bid to woo the $100 million home of the federal agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid to Baltimore, the Schmoke administration sweetened its proposal yesterday by revising an earlier parking plan that would have relied on the use of baseball stadium lots.
The changes strengthen the weakest link in the city-backed effort to lure the Health Care Financing Administration from Baltimore County to downtown Baltimore. The General Services Administration's decision on a location for the new complex is expected in August.
The two private development teams vying for the project have proposed a site just past the end of Security Boulevard in Woodlawn and another next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. HCFA will move out of its current buildings in Woodlawn whether the agency goes downtown or not.
The new headquarters will be bigger than any office project built in or around Baltimore even during the go-go days of the 1980s -- as much as twice the square-footage of most major downtown towers.
HCFA is an economic-development plum that has pitted the city and county, rallied the union representing 2,800 HCFA workers in defense of the Woodlawn site and spurred Helen Delich Bentley, a Republican Baltimore County congresswoman, to lobby the top regional official for the GSA.
The change in the city's part of the proposal involves the free parking it would provide to the agency for 30 years, said Jeff Middlebrooks, executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public development arm of the city.
The city scrapped its plan to lease 1,087 spaces outside the stadium from the Maryland Stadium Authority. HCFA employees had criticized that plan because the long walk to employees' offices would have required a shuttle.
The employees also would have had to move their cars out of their spaces 90 minutes before Orioles night games. Not only would that have disrupted employees with flexible work schedules, it would have forced workers to park elsewhere when the Orioles played day games.
Instead, the city has said it would provide parking within two to three blocks of the offices in garages or lots that it owns or might build. The proposal also includes a 713-space parking garage adjacent to the proposed HCFA building, which was also contained in the earlier plan.
The competing proposal, offered by Boston Properties Inc. and James F. Knott Development Corp. of Towson, calls for a 3,156-space parking lot at the Woodlawn site.
In addition to the parking changes, Baltimore Development Corp. won approval yesterday to reduce the $12 million cost of the site by almost $1 million.
The Board of Estimates -- a panel of the city's top officials -- approved the changes.
The city would sell the land to the development team proposing the downtown site, which is composed of the Rouse Co. of Columbia, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and the Henson Co.