Group files 3rd appeal for HCFA Bid hopes to bring office to Baltimore

November 10, 1992|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

The developers backing a proposed downtown site for the new home of the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration have filed a third appeal in their attempt to overturn an earlier decision to build the HCFA's home in Woodlawn.

The move could delay resolution of the appeals until March.

The appeal by Inner Harbor West Joint Venture, which proposed building a 22-story tower just north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, asks the U.S. General Accounting Office to review the decision to award a $122.6 million contract to a joint venture of Boston Properties Inc. and James F. Knott Development Corp. of Towson.

The GAO does not have the authority to overturn the contract, but can recommend to the U.S. General Services Administration that the contract the GSA awarded in August be overturned. Officials at both agencies said that the GSA, which manages real estate affairs for most federal agencies, rarely defies a GAO recommendation to reverse a contract.

"The process is sort of starting over again," said Richard Burkard, an attorney for the General Accounting Office. Earlier appeals were filed shortly after the announcement in August that the HCFA would stay in Woodlawn, and appeal procedures call for the GAO to make a recommendation by Jan. 14.

Mr. Burkard said he could not disclose details of the new appeal, other than to say it was based on a review of the Knott/Boston Properties proposal by attorneys for the Inner Harbor West team.

The appeal documents themselves are not open to public inspection, he said.

The Inner Harbor West team, led by the Rouse Co. of Columbia, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Baltimore and the Henson Co. of Baltimore, disputes the GSA's evaluation of the Knott/Boston proposal, Mr. Burkard said.

But he would not say whether Inner Harbor West is disputing the GSA's estimate of the Knott/Boston proposal's cost or the agency's evaluation of how well the Woodlawn proposal met criteria including building quality, experience of the development team and the impact on employees of choosing Woodlawn, the location the HCFA employees' union strongly supported.

The Knott/Boston proposal was made available to attorneys for the Inner Harbor West Joint Venture only after the earlier appeals were filed in August and September, Mr. Burkard said.

A delay until March would mean that the decision would still be open after President-elect Bill Clinton, whose campaign won strong earlysupport from Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, takes office.

Backers of the downtown site have expressed hope that a Clinton administration would look more favorably on the needs of urban districts, whose economic development strategies are based partly on attracting federal agencies such as the HCFA.

One of the developers on the Inner Harbor West team refused last week to rule out a strategy of trying to use political influence to reverse the GSA's decision and move the HCFA to Baltimore.

"Our intent is to avail ourselves of every available avenue to right a wrong," said Daniel P. Henson III, president of the Henson Co. "The mayor will do what the mayor needs to do to right a wrong."

Honora Freeman, the head of Baltimore Development Corp., had no comment on whether the mayor will go to bat for the city's interest in the HCFA with the new president.

Peter Marudas, another aide to the mayor who worked on the original HCFA proposals, said the mayor had not discussed with him any strategy of appealing to the Clinton team.

GSA spokesman John Thompson said he does not expect political influence to affect the decision.

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