Power Plant Up for Grabs

August 05, 1994

Alex. Brown & Sons has a big decision to make. The investment giant has been offered negotiating rights to the Pier 4 Power Plant -- which once churned electricity for its railway company. "If they don't take it, we are still encouraging the folks dTC at Sports Center USA to continue their efforts," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday.

Sports Center USA had the exclusive negotiating rights for the past two years. But it was unable to shore up financing for the $32.5 million sports-themed virtual-reality entertainment center.

When Alex. Brown began making noises about considering the Power Plant as a headquarters site, the city decided to accommodate the firm's interest rather than lose the important company altogether.

This is how it should be. Sports Center USA had a chance; now Alex. Brown has its opportunity. If neither of them wants to go ahead and redevelop the building, the city should proceed to offer it to other interested parties.

Since 1979, two formal contests have been held to return the former generating station into a profitable operation. At one time, its cavernous building was to be turned into a hotel, with elevators fitted into the smokestacks and additional floors constructed in a pyramid shape. Nothing came of this fanciful idea nor of proposals to turn the building into condominiums or "the world's first boating department store" selling boats and accessories and having an "in-water display at dockage."

The completion soon of the Columbus Center next door ought to increase the desirability of the Power Plant site for a variety of future uses, particularly if the city succeeds in its current efforts to acquire the boarded-up Fishmarket entertainment complex across Pratt and Lombard streets for a children's museum. The fact is the Power Plant is the last unused site right in the center of the Inner Harbor's current tourism activity.

We say current, because such sites now being prepared for development as the Inner Harbor East (south of Little Italy) and the AlliedSignal property (adjoining Fells Point) will greatly expand the Inner Harbor business, entertainment and tourism area in future years.

The Power Plant is a pivotal high-visibility site that should be marketed aggressively worldwide now that the economic recovery is moving well.

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