No hotel above center It was to rise over addition to convention facility

May 15, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

State officials planning a $150 million addition to Baltimore's Convention Center have given up on the idea of building a 1,000-room hotel above it.

Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said at a meeting of Baltimore's Architectural Review Board yesterday that building a hotel in the air rights above the addition has been deemed unworkable and that the developers are now considering other locations nearby.

"The hotel is gone" from the convention center site, he said.

The General Assembly last month approved a funding package of more than $150 million to expand the 14-year-old Convention Center within the two-block parcel bounded by Sharp, Conway, Howard and Pratt streets.

The Stadium Authority is overseeing planning for it.

The 1,000-room hotel was proposed by a development group headed by Richard Swirnow, the Baltimore businessman who wants to build a $600 million medical trade mart and conference center east of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Mr. Swirnow's group has been negotiating for the right to build the medical mart, called the International Life Sciences Center, in and around several publicly owned parcels.

The parcels include the interior of Camden Station and the city-owned block bounded by Camden, Howard, Pratt and Eutaw streets in addition to the air rights over the Convention Center addition and those over the train tracks east of the B&O Warehouse.

The review board said that combining the hotel with the Convention Center would exacerbate traffic problems around the center and dwarf smaller buildings such as the Old Otterbein United Methodist Church.

Mr. Hoffman said that Mr. Swirnow's group is now considering the city-owned block north of Camden Station as a possible site for the hotel, and that a building there could be linked to the Convention Center by a pedestrian bridge over Howard Street.

He also said that the Swirnow group is studying the idea of using the air rights over the addition to the Convention Center to build several other components of the medical mart, such as a 250-seat theater, a 1,000-seat auditorium and specialized exhibit space.

He added that the $150 million construction budget approved by the state legislature did not include funds for any medical mart spaces and that the development team would have to find its own financing.

Tom Marudas, a vice president of the Swirnow group, said his team is still evaluating its options for the medical mart's first phase.

It would include about 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, a medical-oriented conference center and the hotel.

"We're in very close negotiations with the city and the state for the air rights and the land and as soon as that is consummated, then we will be able to move ahead" with the design decisions, Mr. Marudas said. If the hotel can't be above the Convention Center, "it will get built elsewhere," he added.

Meanwhile, Convention Center officials said they have booked their first tenant for the enlarged facility -- and in the process set a deadline for completion of construction work.

The National Association of College Bookstores has reserved the Convention Center from April 9 to April 18 of 1997 for a show expected to draw about 7,000 delegates.

The association met in Baltimore during the 1980s but could not return in subsequent years because the building was not large enough to accommodate increasingly large meetings, said Convention Center Director Peggy Daidakis. The bookstore managers will use the entire 300,000-square-foot facility, she said.

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