Convention Center work to start Opening phase set for October

August 19, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Site and utility work for the $151 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center will begin in October, after the end of the baseball season, state and city officials said yesterday.

Building construction will begin early next year, they said, with completion of the entire project scheduled for April 1997.

Bids for the first of 20 phases of the project will be opened Monday, officials said.

The officials outlined the timetable for the expansion of the center yesterday at a meeting of the city's Board of Estimates. The board approved an agreement between the city and the Maryland Stadium Authority for the construction, financing and operation of the expanded facility.

The agreement formalizes terms set forth in legislation approving the expansion of the Convention Center passed in April by the General Assembly.

Under provisions of that legislation, the state will issue $101 million of general obligation and revenue bonds in three stages beginning this fall, while the city will issue $50 million in bonds in the spring.

It also requires that half of all new workers hired for the project be residents of the city, provided that they meet necessary qualifications.

The Stadium Authority will meet tomorrow to consider the agreement and the state Board of Public Works will take up the agreement Sept. 1, said Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Stadium Authority. Approval by both bodies is expected, he said.

The expansion of the Convention Center on a parcel bounded by Sharp, Conway, Howard and Pratt streets will more than double the existing exhibition and meeting space in the building. The expansion will enable Baltimore to compete for all but the very largest gatherings and give an expected boost to downtown hotels and other businesses, economic development officials say.

Mr. Belgrad said that site work was being put off until the end of the baseball season to minimize disruption of traffic to and from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Michele Whelley, development director of the Baltimore Development Corporation, said that plans were still being worked out to deal with the flow of traffic during the construction work.

"There may be a period of time, at nonpeak hours, when Conway Street will be closed. Those things are still being discussed," she said.

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