Juggling the Balls at Camden Yards

September 01, 1993

If redeveloping the area around Oriole Park at Camden Yards were a juggling act, some of the balls would have already fallen. For example, the city failed in its bid for the headquarters of the federal Health Care Financing Administration at a gateway site behind the ballpark. But keeping some of the other balls in the air might get easier later this year.

Baltimore will learn next month if it gets an expansion team from the National Football League. If that happens, a new football stadium will rise south of Oriole Park. Such a major facility would undoubtedly also increase developer interests in parcels now vacant or underutilized.

One of those premium lots is the site that was to house the HCFA headquarters.

That city-owned parcel is the object of intense interest from a group headed by Richard Swirnow, which wants to develop a 2.5-million square foot medical trade mart and training center. Leased to medical and pharmaceutical companies for permanent exhibits, the center would "offer all the latest equipment in one place at one time," Mr. Swirnow told a breakfast meeting of the Downtown Partnership this summer.

This idea, of course, has been afloat for several years but has yet to proceed beyond the talking stage. In fact, exclusive negotiating rights the Swirnow group had for some of the land it wants to use have either expired or are about to lapse.

Meanwhile, a scramble is on for re-use of the historic Camden Station. If it does not become part of the Medmart, the Babe Ruth Museum and a host of other baseball interests are eyeing the former train station.

HTC Other local business groups are floating their ideas for other sites. Some of the principals behind the City Crescent office, a $37 million office building nearing completion across from the Baltimore Arena, are talking about additional redevelopment ventures in the area.

The Medmart that Mr. Swirnow described at the Downtown Partnership meeting would include more than permanent trade shows. It would be a training facility for the latest medical technology. Others are dreaming about such a futuristic facility, too. But a chief rival in Tokyo has been temporarily halted by the Japanese recession.

Mr. Swirnow still has time to complete his juggling act -- but time is running out. His investors have to move forward with their plans or see parcels they want dished out to other developers.

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