The owners of the vacant Southern Hotel on Light Street received a four-year guarantee from the city zoning board yesterday that they had until 1997 to start construction at the site.
Zoning board members extended the variance, which is needed to build a $180 million, 44-story tower, after an agent for the owners said that a four-year guarantee from the city was crucial to attracting tenants in a soft market.
The project, proposed two years before the commercial real estate downturn began, would be the tallest building in Baltimore.
"We found ourselves caught in a situation over which we had no control -- the national economy," said J. Joseph Clarke, an agent for Mirecourt Associates, an affiliate of Capital Guidance Corp.
One member of the zoning board, Gia A. Blattermann, agreed that "a project of this importance and this magnitude demands this. It will be a definite asset to the city."